As we talk about swath grazing, and grazing stockpiled forage, one of the questions that always comes up is “What happens when it snows?”
The answer, as always, is “It depends.”
Grant Taillieu says, “You can’t just take a group of cows and say, I’m going to graze in the middle of winter. If they’ve never done it, you’re going to have all kinds of problems.”
He says, that if cows know that there is grass under the snow, they’ll dig down to graze. But if they don’t know, they’ll just stand and wait. This coincides with a story Greg Judy told me about his cattle after a particularly heavy snow. He drove into the pasture with a tractor to unroll some hay and they way they were standing there, he could see they were upset by all the white stuff on the ground. After he drove through the snow and moved it a bit for them, they realized the grass was still there. They began to graze and were much happier after that.
But getting beyond the challenge of forage covered with snow isn’t the only trick to managing winter stockpile. In fact, there are probably about as many ways to manage as there are ranchers doing it. In this video, you’ll get a variety of examples from Alberta ranchers accustomed to grazing through very cold and snowy winters. Their examples will give you a few ideas for creating your own winter grazing plan.
For those of you in the Midwest, here’s some winter grazing advice from Victor Shelton:
Bale grazing is also an option. By setting up bales in pasture before winter arrives, you will be ready to feed both your livestock and your soil. We’ve written a lot about bale grazing. Click here for a list of articles.
Finally, this week’s Classic by NatGLC is about one rancher’s practice of strip grazing through the winter for those of you interested in that.
Whatever your plan, do remember Grant Taillieu’s key bit of advice. “Write it down.” It helps you remember where you’re going.
I’m so sad to learn that Gerry Taillieu passed away unexpectedly on August 23rd, 2020. Our sympathies go out to his family and friends. He was a family man known for his kindness to all and his family and community will miss him very much.