Three strategic points to a successful pasture management plan
I know you’re a busy bunch, but all farmers and ranchers should, at some point, set aside a little time to develop a pasture management plan and take care to get your workers on board, if you have any. This is probably one of the low-hanging fruits of your business and you can maximize profit with reasonable efforts, but strong commitment.
Your pasture management plan should include all the components of the grazing and pasture system and serve as a guide for management improvements, year after year. Ideally, you should set goals for each season with measurable metrics to track on your progress.
Today, let’s discuss three key strategic points with unique benefits to increase your herd’s productivity and overall health while also improving the quality and sustainability of your pastures – rotational grazing, feeding cattle by Bio-Carpeting and harrowing your pastures.
Feeding cattle by Bio-Carpeting
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.
Reduced feed waste
The Hustler Chainless bale processor is designed to gently tease the hay out of the bale to retain the nutrition rather than “flail” it out which destroys the most nutritional part of the feed. Not only that but it feeds in a long narrow window to minimize hay waste by ensuring that cattle only have access to the hay they need without trampling it. This leads to less hay waste and lower feed and supplement costs.
Improved feed quality
By feeding hay with a Hustler Trailed Chainless bale feeder, you can be sure that your cattle are getting all the high-quality hay you worked so hard to bale up. Little to no nutritional waste occurs with its gentle feeding method. This can help improve the overall health and productivity of your herd.
“Before, we were using hay unrollers and flail type processors…with the Hustler, your windrow format is better, your control of what you’re feeding is better, and your horsepower requirement is dramatically less than a flail type. You have such a high leaf retention on your plant…they’re not blowing in the wind like with a flail type processor.”
— Peter Pelster, Hustler Chainless TX205 owner
Feeding cattle with a Hustler Trailed Chainless bale feeder is a much more efficient way to feed hay than traditional methods like a bale bed or “flail-type” bale processor. This can help reduce labor costs, maintenance costs, capital costs and increase productivity on your farm.
Harrowing your pastures
In modern agriculture, harrowing is widely used in crop fields but is also growing in popularity among livestock breeders and farmers as a pasture care technique. Chain harrows in particular – less aggressive and less disturbing for the soil than disc or spike harrows – are broadly used in pastures and hay fields to regenerate and renovate grasslands. Dragging a harrow over your pasture a few days after having grazed your herd on it will break up manure and distribute it evenly over the soil.
Improved soil health
Distributing nutrients evenly throughout your pasture helps keep your pasture’s growth uniform and thick. This process eliminates bare spots that promote weed growth in order to maximize the grass available for when the animals eventually return, also leading to increased grass growth and higher-quality forage. And, as a bonus, it will also smooth your ride for mowing during the spring and summer months!
Reduced parasite load
Harrowing pasture in dry and warm conditions is ideal to break up manure, exposing the larvae to the sun and reducing parasite burden. At certain times of the year, the soil can be too wet/saturated to harrow without damaging the ground with tractor movement. However, if the weather is good, you can use your chain harrow to spread excess/spoiled hay, which are a breeding ground for bacteria affecting mostly young calves. This can lead to healthier cattle and lower vet bills.
Improved grazing quality
Chain harrows will not harm the existing deep-rooted grasses and will return the pastures to uniformity while preserving the grass cover that protects the pasture from the elements. Chain harrowing also aerates the soil and warms the soil in spring, which can help your pastures to catch up after the long winter months. The healthiest grasses will turn green first, which is going to help you to identify weak patches. Ultimately, these practices will increase weight gain and milk production in cows.
Rotational grazing involves moving cattle through a series of smaller pastures (often referred to as “paddocks”) rather than allowing them to graze on one large area continuously to improve soil, plant, and animal health.
Increased forage quality
By implementing rotational grazing, each paddock is given the opportunity to regrow, providing cattle with access to fresher and more nutritious grass. This results in improved productivity, increased weight gain or milk production per acre, and a higher overall net return for the farm. To measure and track success, it can be beneficial to designate one paddock as a hay field, allowing for yield/acre records to be kept. You can also choose to test the quality of the hay, which can provide valuable insights into any variations that may occur.
Reduced soil erosion and better carbon sequestration
By moving cattle from one paddock to another, you reduce the likelihood of soil erosion and agricultural runoff, which can be a significant problem in pastures that are overgrazed. Grazing stimulates plants to develop an abundance of deeper roots, which continuously shed and decompose within the soil. This natural process enhances soil biomass, and fertility, and effectively captures carbon from the atmosphere, contributing to its sequestration.
Increased carrying capacity
Rotational grazing can increase the number of cattle that you can sustainably graze on your land by allowing for more efficient use of your pasture. This system helps you to control the timing and intensity of grazing, especially during slow forage growth periods.
Developing a comprehensive pasture management plan and implementing strategic practices such as rotational grazing, feeding cattle by Bio-Carpeting, and harrowing your pastures can significantly impact your farm’s productivity, profitability, and sustainability.
By adopting these methods, you can provide your animals with fresher and more nutritious forage, reduce waste and feed costs, improve soil health and carbon sequestration, and increase carrying capacity. It’s important to set measurable goals and track your progress to ensure continuous improvement.
And my last and probably most important advice is to remember the old saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. Always keep in mind that building a successful operation takes time, patience, and consistency, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Stay committed to your end goal and embrace the knowledge gained along the journey of implementing these practices on your ranch.
Lance Paskewitz, Hustler Business Development – North America
You may also like to take a look at some of these great resources:
- The Art of Sustainable Hay Feeding in a Tough Economy
- Benefits of feeding long-stem hay, especially when weaning calves
- Does it really make sense to ground-feed onto mud?
- How to deal with hay shortage in drought conditions
- Improve your pasture for free with your bale feeding routine
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!