Rotary GrazingRotary Grazing

Rotary Grazing

I have begun rotating cows and sheep on very sandy soils in zone 8 Texas.

In addition to the ways rotational grazing will help the soil, what else can i do to increase organic matter and water holding capacity in these pastures?

Are there different techniques
I should be applying

to cover short term and long term…

Well, adding tree forage is a big thing.

So, here we have a lane way, and we have a beef cow and a dairy cow at the front, or a dairy cow cross at the front, we’re milking at the moment.

Um, and we have this lane way of electric fence.

So, this goes three kilometers all the way around the edge of the farm, and there’s 44 gates we can open and put a mobile electric fence line out, or a double line with little pig tail temporary treading fence posts.

This allows us to move the animals in a rotation that means we can change the size of the paddock to the seasonal conditions, we can speed up the rotation or slow it down as we like, but were grazing in amongst our swale systems and our trees.

Now, there’s a lot of hang over forage, so their gaining a lot of feed from the trees, which are much deeper rooted, of course, than the pastures.

If your trees are on swales, the swales are hydrating the landscape from the swale to the pasture to the swale.

Now, because they’re on contour, and your grazing system is now on contour top and bottom, the cattle will come up to the shade, like these girls are here, and cool off, or in winter they’ll get out in the sun.

So, they’ll tend to walk the fence lines, especially when they’re on contour.

So, that manure on the top line, will flow down with rain in to the pasture, the manure on the bottom line, will flow down to the swale, and if there’s enough rain, they’ll dilute all the way down the swale and fertilize the tree roots on the swale which will give you more hangover forage on the next pasture.

So, it’s about introducing trees in to the system with their deeper tapped roots, with their roots that will bring up minerals, relieve the pasture and then you’ve got a larger, longer, deeper cycling of nutrients to your animals.

Now, you can also, go through your pasture on contour, with a Wallace plow or a Yeoman’s plow every now and again, and deep-rip without totally changing the structure of the soil.

This is a fine, sharp rip-line and reseed extra herbage in, or just relieve compaction if you’ve made a little bit of a mistake.

But, usually, you can set it up so your imprint in the ground, your taken off all the grasses and herbs and, with the right conditions, you can seed in to the imprinting and diversify your pasture that way.

And your return cycles are what you try and judge to get the best feed again.

So, by aiming that direction, you can reduce the amount of area you need to graze, you can increase the amount of tree cover, you can increase the amount of diversity in your pastures and your trees, and you can rehydrate the landscape at the same time.

And that all comes up in the animals health.

You can also introduce minerals in to occasional feed, so you can use the sea minerals of kelp, which will have all the minerals in the ocean, and diverse rock-dust which can have all the ore-rock minerals we use,

which has got all the minerals of the land.

All the land, all the sea, minerals.

You can add that in to feeds.

You can buy biodynamic link blocks that have all those minerals in and they go through the cow, with it’s four stomachs, and become plant-soluble when they plop out the other end.

Of course, everything the cow drinks also comes out the other end as enhanced product, called urine.

And, most of what the cow eats comes out the other end as high-quality manure.

If that’s highly mineralized, its almost like you’re having a minor glaciation event across your farm and your pasture and your swale-diluted nutrient systems, because the ice ages of history caused massive ice-sheets to grind rock minerals and mineralize the Earth, well you can mineralize your farm through mineralizing your cow feed at times, and distributing that out through your manure everywhere.

There’s all kinds of things you can do, by putting animals to work doing what they love to do and at the same time improving their health, and improving the quality of their product, while you’re increasing the quality of your farm, and the quality of your farm environment.

And, this doesn’t naturally happen.

This is our design applied with intelligence and efficiency and care through animals.

Stocking Rates – Cows Per AcreStocking Rates – Cows Per Acre

Cows Per Acre

Hi, if you look around the ranch you will see most of it empty, thousands of acres with only antelope and cute little bunnies hopping around.

All of this land is required here to sustain our herd of cattle, and although it may look like tons of wasted space, but in reality, there is a carefully researched and orchestrated plan, one that is constantly changing and being improved.

Today we look at stocking rates and figuring out we manage grazing on Our Wyoming Life.

Welcome back, and thanks for joining us as we continue to explore the ranch life and escape the ordinary.

We are going to help around 150 cows have their little baby calves and even if the temperature outside doesn’t get warmer, its going to be heating up around here very soon.

Much of my job here on the ranch does center around manual labor, feeding cows, fixing fence, tractors, farmers markets, whatever you name it.

It comes down to putting the work in to get something done and it can be hard work, but today we are continuing in a series of videos from the past where we take a look at the business side of things, so we aren’t in the field.

Most ranches have some sort of office somewhere, even my father in law Gilbert had an office, although most of the information that he used to run the ranch was kept in two spots.

His little notebook, which he carried with him everywhere and his checkbook, which he never left home without.

Gilbert had a theory that there was no problem that money couldn’t solve, he was partly right I guess, if you have money.

But now days, like most ranches, you have to play it smart and you have to find a balance.

Ever since we put out the cost of ranching video over a year ago, I have seen the joke, how do you make a million dollars in ranching?

You start with two million.

Its funny, and for some it may be true, but if you want to make a solid go at it, no matter what size you operation is, there are a few things you have to know and the big one is called stocking rate.

Terms like stocking rate, carrying compacity and AUM are often used in ranching or raising livestock, but there tends to be some confusion about what they actually mean.

I explained that at that time we had a stocking rate of 30 acres per cow and I still get a lot of grief over that fact.

Not because its not true, but because who ever is watching is in an area where you can have a lot less acreage to support a cow and her calf.

So I thought I would take you through our process to determine our stocking rate, something

we refigure almost every year and for good reason, its not only the livelihood of the ranch, but it could be the future.

We have a worksheet that we use to figure all this out and at the end of this video,

I am going to share with you how you can get your hands on that worksheet for your own use as well, so stick around.

We start with definitions.

AUM or Animal Unit Month, that is the amount of feed require to sustain a 1000lb cow and her calf for one month, its about 800lbs of dry forage.

The cool thing about this number is its translatable to pretty much any animal.

For example, a 200 lb sheep would be .2 AUM and 2000 lb bull would be 2 AUM.

For us our cows average about 1200 lbs, so a cow out here is equal to 1.2 AUM.

Carrying capacity is the maximum number of animals a site can support over a given period of time without causing an adverse effect on future forage production, mostly by over grazing.

And then there is stocking rate the number of animals per unit area over a given period, or how long they are on pasture.

Confused?

It can be, until we start to plug in some numbers.

The first thing you need to know, or I need to know is how much forage, or feed for the cows, our ranch is going to produce.

Its going to change year to year, you can look at an average, but if you are in the ranching or farming business, I think you are going to agree with me on this, the average is not the norm.

Its either above average or below, so if we look at the average production of an acre out here, I would err on the side of caution and say its only about 1000 lbs per acre.

We have had better years, and we have definitely had worse but in planning for the upcoming summer we have to start somewhere.

So we take our 5000 acres and take 1000lbs per acre, or 5 million lbs of feed.

Now cows could eat all of this, but we don’t want them to, that would cause issues down the road, so the general rule is eat half leave half, that takes us to 2.5 million.

Out of that, we can say that the cows will only utilize half of that, the other half they will urinate and defecate on trample, and be down in. now we are down to 1.25 million lbs.

Of course cows aren’t the only thing out there, we have antelope, insects and the like,

and they have been shown to eat as much as 15% of that available forage.

Taking us down to just a little over 1 million pounds of available forage in the form of grass for the cows to eat.

I hope that makes sense, its going to differ where ever you live.

We have a very short growing season here.

Our rainy season is from April to June.

After that, we don’t get much more rain.

We hay in July because that’s the end of the growing season and we don’t get another cutting, the grass wont grow back without water and much is the same for the grass the cows eat.

Once they chomp it off, its done until next year.

That’s why its important to control grazing and move cows from pasture to pasture once they have taken grass to that 50 percent mark.

Take half, leave half.

There are areas where this is impossible to control, ditches along roads seem to be grazed heavily, as does grass near water locations, cows are just going to naturally graze harder in those areas.

So we know that we have a million pounds of available forage on the ranch for cows to eat.

We also know we have 5000 acres to play with, so that is 200 lbs per acre, that’s not much.

Now we go back to AUM, that animal unit month.

1 animal unit month is worth 800lbs of dry forage, its 26 lbs per day.

20lbs for the cow and 6 for her calf.

We’ve already said that our cows weigh 1200 lbs and are worth 1.2 animal units so by the math we need 960 lbs per month per cow.

Lets use those number to get a stocking rate.

We have 960lbs of food needed per month per cow, we also know that we are producing 200lbs of useable feed per acre.

So that one cow is going to eat 4.8 acres worth of our forage per month.

We plan on feeding hay that we have put up elsewhere on the ranch, or bought from other hay producers for 6 months out of the year, so over the other 6 months, she is going to eat 28.8 acres worth of hay production.

That I would round up to 30.

30 acres per cow stocking rate.

For us, here on our ranch.

Its going to change for you, no matter where you are at.

You might get rain year round, you might be able to get 4 cuttings of hay and your pastures in turn produce 3 or 4 tons of forage per year.

That’s awesome, but everything is relative.

Here you can buy an acre of agricultural land in the right quantity for 400 to 500 dollars, elsewhere, where production might be higher you are going to see that land price go up, based on what that land can produce.

Its all relative.

The nice thing, is that once you know your stocking rate, you can figure all kinds of things out.

Lets say you have a 400 acre field, how long should you leave your herd in there.

Well we already know that a cow is going to eat 4.8 acres of forage per month, but we can break it down to a day or .16 acres.

You have 150 cows in there, they are consuming 24 acres per day and that pasture should be good for about 16 days.

This is the carrying compacity we talked about earlier.

So you have 16 days before you should think about moving them off and on to greener pastures.

None of it is rocket science, but it is different where ever you go, even a mile away, another rancher might have a completely different stocking rate than we do.

We use ours to protect our land, to ensure that the next year we have something to continue on.

Is there room for improvement?

Of course there is and we are working on ways to improve production of forage on our land.

But we have to be tricky and smart, we have to conserve where we can, and move forward where possible without risking to much.

The nice thing about this formula is that its easily adjustable for different livestock, its based on a 1000 lb animal.

A 300 lb llama would be .3 Animal Units, a 5 lb chicken, .005

Make the numbers work for you, and know exactly what you have available for your livestock.

The smarter we are, the better stewards of the land we become and really that’s what its all about, ensuring that the next has the opportunity to experience what we do everyday and have a connection that is like none other.

These calculations are performed constantly on the ranch, they help us plan how to keep back heifer, how to cull cows and even are factored into hunting, if the antelope population grows too high, we increase the number of hunters we invite to the ranch, an antelope is equivalent to about .1 Animal unit and it only takes ten of them to eat as much as a cow needs.

Thanks for taking your time today to hang out with me today.

We have lots more on the way for you as we continue on our journey, exploring the ranch life and we invite you to subscribe and escape your ordinary.

If you are interested in a worksheet that we use to figure our stocking rate and our carrying capacity, I urge you to head to our website and sign up for the herd report, our weekly newsletter.

As a link for that worksheet will be included in the upcoming issues.

A new episode of the project list is due out Tuesday, I hope to see you there, and until then, have a great week and thanks for joining us in our Wyoming life.

Can Grazing Help Mitigate Climate Change?Can Grazing Help Mitigate Climate Change?

grazing

Grazed and confused? How much can grazing livestock help to mitigate climate change?

These are ruminants.

Ruminants have specialized stomachs containing microorganisms.

This allows them to eat hard-to-digest plants like grass, unlike pigs and chickens.

However, these microorganisms also produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

And the more fibrous the ruminants’ diets, the more methane is produced.

Ruminants are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions from all livestock, and 11.6% of all human-related emissions.

Cattle, being the most numerous species, account for most of ruminant emissions.

Demand for meat and other animal products is expected to grow, and as a result, so are livestock emissions.

This presents a problem, because if global warming is to be kept below the goal of two degrees Celsius global greenhouse gas emissions need to fall to zero by mid-century. And to achieve this, all human activities need to contribute to reducing emissions, including the livestock sector.

While most agree that emissions from the livestock sector need addressing if we are to achieve our climate goals, how, and by how much, are more contested questions.

In particular, when it comes to grass-fed livestock, some argue that research on their emissions ignores a crucial part of the picture: the potential for grass-fed ruminants to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Specifically, they argue that by carefully managing the way animals graze the land, plants can be stimulated to grow more vigorously, taking more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis, leading to more carbon being stored in their shoots and especially in and around their roots. And that some of this carbon, when buried in the soil, may be converted into stable forms resistant to decomposition, rather than being turned back into carbon dioxide by soil microbes. The result: carbon’s long-term removal from the atmosphere, a process known as soil carbon sequestration.

It’s claimed that when the greenhouse gas emissions from grass-fed ruminants are compared with the removals of carbon dioxide resulting from grazing, all the emissions from the grass-fed animals could be partially or even entirely offset.

Some even claim that this sequestration effect from grazing could potentially offset all emissions from all forms of livestock production, and perhaps even solve the problem of climate change.

This debate has left many policymakers and the public feeling confused.

Can raising livestock really help mitigate climate change? And if so, by how much?

To address these questions, an international group of researchers came together to provide answers.

It’s important to note that there are many social, ethical, and environmental issues to think about when considering grass-fed livestock’s role in a sustainable food system, but the researchers’ analysis focused on just one important aspect of this wider picture: grass-fed livestock and the net balance of all their greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for both emissions and any removals via sequestration.

The research did not compare grass-fed livestock with any other production system or species of livestock.

First, they reviewed all sources of emissions from grass-fed livestock, including those from clearing natural land, producing animal feed, animal digestion, and animal manure.

Next, using optimistic assumptions, they identified how much carbon could potentially be removed from the atmosphere if the way grazing is managed today were improved worldwide, so as to promote increased carbon sequestration.

The research found that even if the sequestration potential from grazing were maximized at the global level, grazing livestock would still be a net contributor to the climate problem, and that the reduction in emissions that this could deliver would be small when compared to total emissions from the livestock sector.

In some specific contexts, where the climate, soil, land-use history, and grazing management are just right, additional carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and sequestered in soils.

But realistic rates for this are far below those claimed outside of the scientific literature and only rarely can sequestration outweigh the greenhouse gas emissions from grazing animals living on the land.

Even where changes to grazing management do lead to sequestration, within decades of introducing the change in grazing, a new equilibrium is achieved between carbon entering and leaving the soil, and so the rate of sequestration falls back to a level close to zero.

Meanwhile, animals still continue to emit greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

Additionally, any sequestration gains may also be reversed later on through poor land management or a changing climate.

So what conclusions can we draw about grazing livestock’s role in climate mitigation?

Better grazing management is certainly worthwhile for many reasons.

Yet grazing-induced removals via soil carbon sequestration do not offer a substantial mitigation opportunity.

Grassland soils worldwide already contain vast carbon stores larger than all of the world’s forests, and importantly this stored carbon can be lost much faster than it can be accumulated again .

Which means that stopping poor grazing practices that degrade land through overuse or misuse should be a priority, as should halting the conversion of grasslands into new cropland which quickly releases up to half the carbon stored.

And what does this mean for grass-fed livestock’s role in sustainable food systems?

Answering that question adequately requires a comprehensive sustainability assessment, reaching way beyond climate change issues: an undertaking far beyond the scope of this research.

Nevertheless the study does contribute one important piece of the wider puzzle. Growing emissions from the livestock sector remain a problem. And to reduce emissions from the sector and meet our climate goals we need to make changes to animal product consumption, as well as production.

In other words, whatever the animal species or method of production, high-consuming individuals and nations have to moderate their intake of animal-sourced foods.