Improve your pasture for free with your bale feeding routine
My last article was about different methods of feeding out hay. This week we’ll study a bit more acutely the benefits of feeding bales evenly and how that can affect manure spreading, pasture damage reduction and pasture reseeding.
In this article, we’ll see that feeding in a new part of the pasture every day not only means you reseed your pasture in the process, it means manure is spread in the pasture evenly and you don’t have to waste time and machinery cost to haul manure from a confinement area, plus, you minimize the risk of pasture damage and disease caused by concentrated hoof and manure.
How to reseed a pasture using the benefits of bale feeding?
Old and permanent pasture can be up to 25% less responsive and absorptive of nutrients in the soil, such as Nitrogen than newly renovating pastures. However, even though regular reseeding would definitely increase pasture productivity, pasture reseeding is a time-investment and a money-investment.
A way to mitigate the costs and to space out the time intervals between each reseeding session can be found thanks to bale feeding. If you can improve your pastures utilizing a rotational grazing plan, you can also systematically feed the cows right on the ground.
Ideally, feeding in a new part of the pasture every day in a long narrow windrow gives every animal equal access to feed and the hay bales drop their seeds into the ground in the process. Your whole pasture can be reseeded for (virtually) free and with no time (except the time you are already spending in feeding out your livestock anyway).
In addition, this method protects the ground, keeping the animals from congregating in only a few spots.
Because grain/seeds are not destroyed, any that are not consumed by the cattle germinate, renewing pasture. Notice on the picture above how evenly spread the manure is throughout the pasture.
Pasture fertilization: let your cattle do the work for you!
The gathering of animals in a small area to feed is a major cause of soil compaction and pasture damage. Compacted soil stifles new grass growth and requires damaged areas to be re-seeded with replacement grass.
Regulatory measures being introduced globally to address nitrogen leaching into waterways have brought the feeding of stock into sharp focus. When large numbers of stock gather in a small area to feed, the concentration of dung and urine causes nitrogen overload. Plants struggle to absorb this excess, which can then leach through the soil and into waterways.
Feeding directly onto the ground forces the animals to directly deposit urine and manure where they eat, meaning that if you choose where to feed, you basically choose where to fertilize.
An interesting paper from Canada shows that soil inorganic measured in spring following winter feeding beef cattle, were 3 times greater on bale graze sites and 3.7 times greater on bale process sites compared to unfertilized sites. Soil extractable were also double on beef cattle winter feeding sites compared to unfertilized sites.
Concentrated feed areas like the above waste feed, endanger calves, animal health and the environment.
6 benefits of pasture bale feeding
Feeding hay in a narrow windrow in a new part of your pasture every day gives you all the benefits:
- Equal access by all cows
- Minimal wastage
- Minimal pasture damage
- Re-seeds your pasture
- Minimizes disease
- Kinder on the environment with concentrated urine and manure onto the soils, and less chemicals and industrial fertilizers used!
 Sources: Winter feeding beef cattle on the western Canadian prairies: Impacts on soil nitrogen and phosphorus cycling and forage grow by P.F. Jungnitsch, J.J. Schoenaua, H.A.Lardner and P.G. Jefferson
You can also find more information related to pasture management in the Hustler Bale Feeding Guide here.