Make your livestock feeding programme an essential part of your pasture management strategy
Recently, we shared with you the video of the field day we organized in Arkansas (you can find the article by clicking here). We have decided to create a more detailed article on each guest’s performance as the topics covered are complex but extremely interesting for anyone interested in improving the quality and health of their soils on their farm or ranch.
This week we focus on Lance Paskewitz from Hustler Equipment who explained and demonstrated how you can implement Bio-Carpeting into your feeding program to really reap those same benefits of rotational grazing through the winter. Bio-Carpeting is a strategic feeding methodology that mimics natural grazing habits and allows you to control animal traffic to reduce hay waste and pasture damage. It was incredible to see how Bio-Carpeting can drastically reduce your Total-Cost-To-Feed and improve pasture growth the following summer!
You can watch the entire video here, or you can read below an interview recently given by Lance to a New Zealand audience, presenting what several countries have in common when it comes to livestock feeding and land preservation.
You are a cattle nutrition expert, you live in North America but you are actually working for a New Zealand company. How did that happen?
My name is Lance Paskewitz, I work for the New Zealand farm machinery manufacturer Hustler Equipment and I am currently based in the United States. I am by no mean a farm equipment salesman, I spent my entire career in livestock nutrition, mostly working with American ranchers and stockmen. The thing that caught my eyes with Hustler Equipment and made me make a career shift is the New Zealand farming style is close to what many ranchers are trying to achieve here in North America. New Zealand beef and sheep farmers have been pioneers in the grass management and soil health sector.
What challenges do the US and New Zealand have in common in relation to pasture management?
There are a lot of similarities between the US and New Zealand. Lots of livestock operations in the US and in New Zealand are dependent on grass and soil as farmers understood for a long time that well-managed grasslands and pastures contribute signiﬁcantly to the sustainability of a ranch/farm operation and the health of surrounding ecosystems. Many farmers now assert that their primary activity is growing grass, not beef. So it is essential to take care of this natural resource by implementing strategies that will help productivity long term, especially now we are experiencing droughts and hard weather conditions. In addition, even though the US is much larger than New Zealand, there is a limited amount of land available (and at affordable price) as well. It becomes more and more important to do even better with what we’ve already got.
Working alongside livestock producers, you developed a concept, a methodology that basically brings all the pasture management benefits through the winter season. Can you elaborate a bit more?
The concept of Bio-Carpeting is a strategic feeding methodology that mimics natural grazing habits and allows you to control animal traffic to reduce hay waste and pasture damage. Bio-Carpeting is basically carrying pasture management practices all year round, even when the grass is poor in winter (or during a drought).
In both New Zealand and the US, it is not rare in winter to see sacrificed paddocks or hay rings in the middle of a big mud pool. It’s really a suppression of pasture production, suppression of the production capacity of the land. The same happens when we just drop a hay bale in the middle of the paddock, the surrounding soil can get quite damaged because of hoof traffic. Here, we would like to try to find ways to preserve the pasture in winter as well in order 1) to maximise the use of the land available 2) to get a faster recovery in spring and 3) reduce feed waste.
So it is basically creating a sort of rotational grazing with hay instead of grass?
Yes, precisely. The goal of Bio Carpeting is to mimic the natural behaviour of wild ruminant herds. Spreading the feed in a long and thin windrow encourages the animals to move around the paddock which provides six key benefits:
- Strategical traffic – control where the herd goes, the feed is distributed around the pasture so there is no concentration, which really helps with moisture retention.
- Re-seeding and nutrients in the soil – an even distribution of any leftover residual hay including seeds reduces the depletion of nutrients and the need for adding fertiliser and re-seeding.
- Kinder on the environment – with concentrated urine and manure onto the soils, and less chemicals and industrial fertilizers used! We saw with the new winter grazing rules implemented in New Zealand that environmental topics are definitely becoming a challenge for the ag sector which will need to adapt and adjust to new rules.
- Increased feed efficiency – when you have a smaller amount of feed in any given areas of the pasture, the cattle are way less wasteful because they tend to clean up what is in front of them and move on instead of constantly trampling around a bale or a hay ring.
- Minimise disease and hoof issues, especially with calves – actively avoiding creating mud areas in the paddocks is a definite bonus for the health of the herd and especially the calves.
That sounds promising but implementing this methodology sounds a bit time-consuming compared to simply using a hay ring for instance? Though minimising wasted forage and taking care of the soil is a key concern, it is far from the only worry. There is also the convenience factor and farmers often lack time.
That’s correct, but you’ll see that the fastest method isn’t always the one you’d think. An interesting study has been published by Dennis Hancock, Forage extension specialist at the University of Georgia where he compared the time expended feeding dry hay in six 1.7-acre (0.4-hectare) pens of beef heifers. It obviously takes more time to feed out than simply placing the bale in the field without protection.
But the interesting part is that Dennis Hancock noticed that “the mechanical bale feeders unroll and pull apart the bale more aggressively than simply unrolling the bale across the ground, but are less destructive than a bale grinder. Those feeders did not add a significant amount of time to feed a bale when compared to simply placing the bale”. However, using a hay ring increases the amount of time to feed a bale by about 30% because the hay ring has to be repositioned – moving it off the previous spot and over the new bale. So Mr. Hancock found that using a mechanised chain bale feeder/processor or a mechanised chainless (rotors) bale feeder/processor doesn’t take much longer than simply placing a bale in a paddock.
Beyond the time spent with feeding, there is also an important question for livestock producers: the cost!
The effects of feeding hay in a certain area can often be felt for months or even years. Any farmer or rancher could see an aerial picture of a farm or ranch, and instantly located where they feed out their hay. The physical damage to the ground from the hoof traffic (resulting in soil compaction) and the thickness of the residue left behind after the hay feeding period was also been measured by Dennis Hancock, if you’re interested.
So yes, there is some capital investment in implementing Bio Carpeting. But the return on investment is very quick. In general, I noticed that most operations found it took 2 to 3 years to pay off completely, and after that, it was paying back with a combination of less feed wastage, better pasture production (and a better hay quality, kicking off earlier in the season), less chemicals and seeds used.
Here at Hustler, farming sustainably is at the heart of everything we do.
Our belief in sustainable farming practices underpins our range of world-leading livestock feeding solutions. If you are looking for farming equipment near you or buying livestock feeding equipment, contact our friendly team today!