This week we’re sharing some questions from readers that we think you, the On Pasture Community, will have some good answers for. One reader wants to know about grass finishing cows purchased at the sale barn. John Marble has provided one right answer, and we think you’ll have other thoughts. We’d also like you to share some advice with Zoltan Lengyel, a long-time On Pasture readers from Hungary. Here’s what he wrote to us:
I have a bit of a dilemma. I’m doing/want to do management intensive grazing, but I have way less cattle than land and can’t buy any more for a while. So as I see it I have a “few” options:
• Going for the every blade of grass is trampled/eaten effect, and
– do every cell [paddock], giving them a rest of around 1.5 years,
– do a chunk of the land, grazing each cell once a year and hay the rest,
– do a chunk of the land graze and come back immediately after “full rest”, and do hay on the rest
• Going for full utilization of the land,
– size the cells for once a year or full rest grazing regardless of herd size,
– mow after they’ve left the cell. Mowing can be real haymaking, or just topping thee forages, and I can also do some stockpiling, but I can’t leave it just standing for years, we have laws against that.
Some hay is needed for winter, we have laws against grazing in the winter mud. And some hay could be sold. I’m feeling a bit uneasy about selling the hay (because of the fertility that leaves with the hay), but this land was an alfalfa hay field for the last 20 years, so 1 more year couldn’t hurt that much, or could it? The money could be used to get more cattle.
Our climate is hot and dry summers, all the green is gone around mid July, rain starts around the end of October, and it’s muddy until March, every few years we have a good frost (-15C for a few weeks), but most of the time we have frozen nights and muddy days.
We have about 250 acres of land and I plan to buy/rent other 50 or so before the end of the year.
About 1/3rd of the land is in one big field, alfalfa and some native grasses/forbes. This was our worst field. It was hayed for 20 years without fertilization. It is currently about 1.2% organic matter, heavy clay lowland. Twenty acres of it is marshland (I use that for pigs). Here we graze 15 cows, 20 sheep and 500-1000 poultry.
The rest of our land is either alfalfa or some arable crop. We’re converting the farm to certified organic, and this is the reason I can’t buy more cows: I’m only allowed to add 10% in a year, from a non-organic breeder. We don’t have an affordable organic source of our chosen breed, Hungarian Grey, which originated in our area.
What’s your take on this?
Help us help an On Pasture Community member. Share some ideas with him about how he can get the most out of his grass as he grows his herd and soil fertility.