No matter how bad the weather has been so far in 2019, we have survived it and now seem to be settled into a typical summer season. The last two weeks have provided tolerable temperatures and drier conditions. We did receive two fast hard rains in July, 1.2 on July 3 and 1.3 on July 17 — I am able to cross the East Fork of the LaMoine on my own bridge on an ATV for the first extended time since November 2018!
With the good weather, we have been able to combine our north and south groups into one of 99 head. This will be a great help as we strive to manage our grazing. We are planning three to five acre paddocks, using temporary fencing when necessary, for a one-day graze, moving every day around noon before the afternoon heat makes them want to hang in the shade. Our goal is to achieve a uniform graze of the top growth of forage, providing them with “ice cream” day after day.
Our density would fluctuate between 20,000 pounds per acre and 35,000. I usually recommend at least 25,000 for a uniform graze of the top few inches, so we are a little under that part of the time, but we are also trying to be careful with the welfare of our forage at this stage of summer.
The group really gets it. If you hold them up too much in moving, they begin to complain, not because they are out of feed, but because they expect that best meal every day on time. That behavior allows the handler to take them most anywhere. When we were grazing our silvo pastures and staying there in a larger acreage more than a day, there was a lot of complaining.
One of the questions I often hear is about determining how much forage there is available in a paddock and how long will it last the herd. One method to determine this is to use a “grazing stick” available from a number of sources, but a membership to the Illinois Forage and Grassland Council may get you a freebie.
Measure your forage with the stick and also the pounds of dry matter. Then to estimate the amount of forage available for grazing per acre, subtract three inches from the average height and then multiply by the pounds of dry matter per acre per inch value you determined with the stick.
For example, tall fescue and clover might average 300 pounds of dry matter per acre per inch. If we are grazing four inches, that would yield about 1,200 pounds per acre. If the paddock is five acres, the total dry matter would be 6,000 pounds. If we are running 30 cows consuming 3% of their body weight, they might be consuming 1,080 pounds of dry matter per day if they average 1,200 pounds; 6,000 divided by the 1,080 is 5.5 days, just about as long as you want to graze any paddock and not damage the regrowth. There is a lot more on the “stick” that you might find useful.
The Western Illinois Grazing Group met here at River Oak on July 24. The dozen participants enjoyed a near-perfect evening with an emphasis on using temporary fencing to better manage grazing. The tour featured examples of several uses. The evening started with a hands-on demonstration by three producers to illustrate how quick and easy it is to install temporary fencing. The group meets monthly. If you would like to be included on the notification list, send your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org or text 309-337-0053.