Multi-Species Grazing Part 3 – Grass and Soil Management Principles

Tom Krawiec started putting multiple species into one herd as a way of reducing labor. His MOBs can include saddle horses, cattle, sheep and even pigs. In Part 1 of this series he described how he gets different species to behave as one herd and some of the helpful behaviors he’s seen as a result. In Part 2, he shared tips for birthing season and for grass management. Now he takes a look at some of the basic principles he keeps in mind as he's moving his MOB through the grazing season. Grass Management Principles 1. Use a Grazing Plan No matter if your MOB has one species or more than one species, you must follow a couple of grazing principles. First, your rotation must be in tune with how fast the grass is growing. In my opinion, a grazing plan is critical! My first grazing plan was written in 2000. After 18 years I still rely on a grazing plan. With a plan you can see how often you need to be moving before you go out to check the grass. It has been my experience that the ‘grazier’s eye’ cannot always be trusted. To illustrate a time whe

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6 thoughts on “Multi-Species Grazing Part 3 – Grass and Soil Management Principles

  1. These have been excellent articles. What is the most number of ewes with there lambs have you run in the mob? And cattle?

    1. Thx Hamish. The largest MOB I have run was made up of 350 ewes with lambs, 200hd of cattle (finishing steers, dry cows, & bulls), 20 horses, and 30-40 finishing hogs. The first time we ran sheep & cattle together there were only 50 ewes with lambs & 80 cow’calf pair. The biggest trick is getting the sheep to bond to the cattle. I know of a fellow in Saskatchewan who wintered his replacement heifers with his replacement ewes & had great success creating a tight bond. Interestingly, it also helps to have some predator pressure because ‘ranch’ sheep tend to learn quickly that their safe place is with the cattle. ‘Barnyard’ sheep not so much!

      1. Thanks for your help Tom. In your experience, do you think if I ran 1000 ewes with their lambs ie 1600, and 200 cattle in one mob, would that be too big a mob to still get good animal performance? Our average size paddocks are 12 acres, and it would make it way more simplified if I ran a bigger mob!! I hope I am making myself clear enough? I guess the issue of a big mob of ewes and lambs is a big one! My infrastructure, water, fencing etc are all very good.

        1. Hamish if you are running 1000 ewes, I guarantee you know way more about sheep than I do! The most ewes I have run is 350 & the most cows in one group is 750. I am still dreaming of running 1000 ewes in one group. Therefore I can only give you my opinion based on my limited experience. The size of the MOB does not affect performance unless you create an environment where the animals are competing for forage. If you are moving to new grass when there is still a lot of grass left in the old paddock, your lambs & calves will perform exceptionally well. We have consistently raised Katahdin lambs to 110-115lbs in 4.5 months. I thought that was normal until more than one person has hinted I was a liar.
          Rotating pastures like it sounds you do, you probably already know that parasites most sheep ranchers deal with are basically non-existent. Finally, it is not my dime you are risking so talk is cheap. However, remember that you will visually know within a couple weeks if your lambs aren’t performing like they should. If that is the case, just go back to what you have been doing. Please let me know how you fair because I still have a hard time imagining myself running 1000 ewes!

          1. I certainly share the same thoughts. I have run 700 ewes with their twin lambs and had good animal performance to about day 70. It was my management and thinking that pastures going to seed was “holistic grazing”. I have since learned otherwise and if I keep my stock density up, and eat only the top third/half, then 90% should thrive. Have a look at our farm Facebook page, Rehoboth Farm, for examples of what we are doing. Thanks again, I will let you know how I get on!!

  2. “Several years ago I decided to just keep following the plan and not worry about the abundance of grass left undisturbed. What I discovered was that the animals topped most of the plants which kept them in a vegetative state. Certainly there are some plants that do go to seed. However, overall, the stand remains high quality which is very beneficial gains and when stockpiling grass for winter.”

    I have found this to be true as well and no longer fret about the forage heights, the animals always know better than us.

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