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Great Gobs of Gargantuan Grass

By   /  June 29, 2015  /  3 Comments

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Tall grass grazing with dairy heifers overlooking the Mohawk Valley I’ve got too much grass. Did t
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About the author

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Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is a seasoned grazier and grasslands advocate who owns, manages and linger-grazes at Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, NY with his understanding wife, daughters, grandchildren and parents. Their certified organic custom grazing operation raise dairy heifers, grass-finished beef and backgrounds feeder cattle on 180 acres of owned and leased pastures. Troy also mentors farmers on holistic land management for the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist. This award-winning free-lance writer, essayist and photographer maintains a website presence at www.thegrasswhisperer.com

3 Comments

  1. Kristin says:

    I tried this for a couple years. I do not have large herd……family milk cows & associated calves as well as a small flock of sheep that swells to 25 or 30 in late winter with lambs. I’m in Tennessee. My pastures are mostly fescue. I had poorer and poorer performance when I grazed tall grass as well as less and less clover….presumably due to shading. And I don’t get the trampling with this assortment of animals. My pastures are certainly thick & lush and withstand drought remarkably well. But I am finding that I have to mow behind grazing to knock back the fescue & allow the other forages a chance. So this might work with non dairy animals and larger flocks. It has not worked for me, much as I would like it to.

  2. Paul Nehring says:

    I’ve been doing this for years, as well, and have seen pastures improve dramatically, because we are adding back so much biomass to the soil. Nitrogen is no longer a limiting factor, because, from what I understand, their are bacteria in the soil that feed off this organic matter and provide plenty of nitrogen as a by-product. The stomped forage mat protects the soil from heat and conserves moisture.

    Also, as you show in the photo, many bird species can successfully nest before the cattle arrive in their paddock. Additionally, I can stockpile the tall grass well into July and still maintain decent gains, though I’ll give the cattle more selection as the grass becomes more mature in order to maintain animal performance.

  3. Dave Scott says:

    Troy, I am discovering the benefits of tall grass grazing this year too. We set our wedge up to do so by delaying spring turnout 5 days on our irrigated pasture. We have grazed very tall vegetative and headed out grass for 30 or more days now. The lambs are much cleaner butted than when we grazed shorter(24″) all vegetative grass in previous years. We are grazing 50% and feeding 50% to the soil bugs, as measured by a NRCS hoop. That amounts to 2500 lbs DM to the 190 ewes and 330 lambs and about about 2000 to 2500 lbs of grass dry matter fed daily to the soil microbes. I used to think of that as a horrific waste of good grass, but I am now astounded that the grass is largely keeping up with the sheep. Further more, the trampled, headed out grass tillers often produce to two new leaf shoots per tiller. You have to wait 7-10 days for this to happen as opposed to new leaf growth the next day in a purely vegetative system. But just look at the benefits: all that carbon put down into the soil and two leaf shoots where you previously had one–fair trade? I think so.
    Plus, way less N fertilizer applied. We are gradually cutting back. Last year we used 50 % less N than previous years.. We will see how that unfolds this year.
    We took a forage sample of what it looked like the sheep were selecting as their diet from the headed out grass; about 70% leaves and 30 % stems. It came back 66% TDN, 18.5% CP. Pretty exciting stuff.
    Yours, Dave

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