This article is part of a series we published in 2015 – 2016 about Jay and Krista Reiser’s answers to the question: Is it possible to adapt mob grazing to work on large scales and native rangelands like their 2700 acre ranch in North Dakota? Their observations about paddock design and how it impacts what happens on the ground are helpful no matter the size of your operation.
When Jay and Krista Reiser couldn’t find the answers they needed about the possibilities of mob grazing on large landscapes like their 2700 North Dakota ranch, they decided to try it for themselves and share the information with the rest of us. In addition to figuring out fencing solutions that worked for them, they also had to figure out “When is it time to move the cows?” What they learned over the course of their 2 year North Central SARE funded project is that it depends on your goals, the weather, and what the cows need.
Adjusting the Trample to Graze Ratio
One of their goals was to improve soil health. They thought that a mob grazing strategy with rotation, rest, and better distribution of manure and urine could reinvigorate the soil, improve forage quantity and quality and provide drought resistance. They hoped to use the trampling effect we’ve all heard and read about as part of this process.
As they watched their cattle and how they responded to different fencing systems, they learned that how they fenced changed the ways that animals moved as well as the trample to graze ratio. In the 1 minute video excerpt below from a North Central SARE Farmer Forum presentation, Jay describes what he saw happening. He shows how the larger paddocks with no back fence saw more grazing and the smaller cells saw more trampling. Knowing this could help you when you’re thinking about your animal impact goals and how to achieve them. He also describes what you might expect as you’re training your mob to move through gates opened by batt latches.
One thing he doesn’t mention here is that the cattle were also trained to ATV tracks. Jay typically drove his 4-wheeler along a new fence line to knock the grass away from the polybraid. The 4-wheeler tracks also served as a “warning zone” to let cattle know they were approaching the fence.
Wet vs. Dry, Hilltops vs. Lowlands
Another thing to consider when timing herd movements from paddock to paddock is how different plants respond to trampling, and how moisture and topography affect the results. In this short excerpt, Krista talks about what they learned about the forage on their ranch.
(If you’d like to watch their full 45-minute presentation video, head over here.)
Weather was also a concern. Too much rain when cattle were in a small paddock could cause pugging. Fortunately, rest can restore this damage as well. But to prevent this from happening, the Reisers paid close attention to the weather and let the herd out into larger pastures if storms were threatening.
The 7th National Grazing Lands Conference is coming up in December and it’s one of On Pasture’s favorites. One of the things that makes it so great is that folks just like you are the speakers, sharing their great experiences. Learn more about how to be a speaker here. And learn more about the event here.