• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Nicole Alderman
stewards:
  • Mike Haasl
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • John F Dean
  • Rob Lineberger
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
gardeners:
  • Greg Martin
  • Ash Jackson
  • Jordan Holland

Balancing rotational grazing with animals mental health on small farms

 
Posts: 11
3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi guys, long time reader of Permies and first post.


We have about 6 acres for animal grazing. We have alpacas already and want to include beef cattle.

I would like to use a intensive grazing pattern. From my understanding we don’t want to have the animals grazing for more than 3 days in one area. We also want to allow the grass to recover, which in North Canterbury NZ at this time of year should take about 30 days.

So we want at least 10 paddocks. Probably more for the dry summer.

I feel like if we broke the farm up into paddocks that small that the cattle and alpacas would be unhappy without freedom to roam.

I wondered if anyone has considered this before and came up with a solution?

Cheers.
 
gardener
Posts: 3216
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
368
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What if you moved them more often than every 3 days?
Would the grass recover more quickly,  thus allowing you to use fewer, larger paddocks?
 
Tom Pivac
Posts: 11
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The problem with large paddocks, as I understand it, is you end up with an under grazing condition and loose the desired forage.

The animals go into the paddock and eat their favourite grasses and ignore the “weeds”. As this forage begins to regrow they eat it down again before it can mature, all the while ignoring the “weeds”. This favours the weeds and disfavours the desired forage and you result in a paddock full of weeds.

The trick is to densely pack your paddocks so everything gets eaten/trampled and then you allow sufficient time for that area to regrow.

The problem is that with so few animals, achieving the ideal density results in very small paddocks. Which are a lot of work to maintain and I don’t feel right not giving the animals plenty of area to run about.


Cheers
 
pollinator
Posts: 330
Location: Beavercreek, OR
85
dog bike woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a small herd of cattle that I rotate.  I'm constantly trying to balance laziness on my part with pasture health.  It would absolutely be better for the pasture to give the cows a postage stamp in the morning and another in the afternoon.  That's not what happens and they instead spend 24-48 hours in a paddock.  But they also have access to a lane that gives them access to a yard, water and minerals - so whatever the size of the day's grazing they have much more room to move.

I have an unwritten - obviously - agreement with my cows.  I keep giving them fresh grass and they don't challenge the fence.  At other times (such as the winter) I give them large sections of pasture just to explore and find a different tree to sit under.  I definitely have to be careful with tractors, carts, etc because they are so curious they are destructive.

I wouldn't worry about them getting bored so long as they get grass - that will keep them interested.  You can add other stimulation if you need to.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1425
Location: Denmark 57N
406
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Since NZ is pretty hot on Animal welfare also check the law on minimum size of grazing area, I know that here in DK there are minimum sizes for allowed turn out areas for certain animals. for example horses must have a paddock with a minimum area of 20m x 40m.

If you can split your land into long strips you can still let the animals run, I feel that would be better than squares for their health.
 
pollinator
Posts: 477
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
53
cattle forest garden trees earthworks food preservation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's a good question that I have thought about too!  I'm usually thinking about cattle happiness before peak grass utilization.  I have 8 paddocks and try to rotate in 1-2 weeks.  I don't densley stock or use electrical wire -- the cows just don't like that.  At different times of year they may appreciate more shade, more shelter, more brush and trees...
I don't wean off calves and separate at 6-9 months - the cows just don't like that.
i don't take the bull out and have him hang out elsewhere most of the year - the cows just don't like that.
I do dehorn small horns before they become big hard weapons - the other cows sharing a feeder appreciate that very much.

So if this makes cows with better mental health I can't say.  I think all of these things help, along with the obvious one of being well fed.  I think cow herds are like family Thanksgiving -- it's nice to have enough space where everybody can hang out where they like in the subgroups they prefer -- like stuffing 25 people into a room to eat and watch football is only ideal for a few people..
 
steward
Posts: 4173
Location: West Tennessee
1671
cattle cat purity fungi trees books chicken food preservation cooking building homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Tom Pivac wrote:

I feel like if we broke the farm up into paddocks that small that the cattle and alpacas would be unhappy without freedom to roam.



I just started raising cows, and have chosen managed grazing as I believe that is best for the forage, soil, and animal health & wellbeing. I currently move my cows every 3 days as I figure out paddock size and learn the best way to do this and utilize the topography and layout of my farm for this purpose. My farm has rolling hills with clusters and peninsulas of trees jutting into pastures, and I see how things sure would be a lot easier for me if I had a wide open square or rectangle to neatly divide paddocks, but I'll work with what I have. Animal welfare and husbandry is of the highest priority for my wife and myself as we run our small farm, and I think that making sure they have enough to eat, fresh water each day and free choice mineral along with shade and trees & things to rub on, they will be happy. They certainly appear to be not only happy, but also healthy. I find animals to be readable; their posture, behavior, brightness in their eyes etc., all offer clues to me as to the state of their happiness. Since cows (and alpacas) are domesticated animals and have been under management by humans in some form for many millennium, I don't think they need freedom to roam like their migrating ancestors did or todays wild ruminants need in order to be happy. I hope this helps!
 
Eliot Mason
pollinator
Posts: 330
Location: Beavercreek, OR
85
dog bike woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

James Freyr wrote:... I see how things sure would be a lot easier for me if I had a wide open square or rectangle to neatly divide paddocks ...



Ain't that the truth.  But (as I'm sure James knows) it would be less interesting to the eye and - apologies to my grandfather - as flat as Kansas.  Trees and terrain also produce significant variation in the landscape - and shelter.  My cows love making little forts in the overgrown hazelnuts inside some paddocks... as a first time cow-dad I was a little alarmed by their disappearing act but then my calls would induce some rustling and a cow would pop a head out of the bushes.

I'm about to make a cross-species comparison - I'm not sure it works.  Our local favorite of a dog park seems superior is part because of the terrain.  Its a large park without a fence, flowing into soccer fields, a play ground, other turf.  But its NOT flat.  Its heavily forested and has wide, deep valleys.  The dogs at this park always seem more chill than at some other parks.  I attribute this partly to the terrain: there is no fence, so dogs can run away if they must (fight or flight... they can fly so they are less likely to fight).  The valleys and trees make spaces more intimate, more bounded and reduce that sense of "being seen", while also reducing the amount of perimeter that has to be scanned for possible threats - yes, even in a dog park.  We generally think of prey animals being safest in the middle of a cleared field with sight lines that stretch for miles - but my cows seem to feel differently, preferring to hide under the low branches of a douglas fir even when shade isn't an issue.  In some sense I think the visually distinct pastures also add some texture to their life - its like the difference between living in a giant open warehouse and a house in which you can go from room to room.

So to conclude ... terrain does make the decisions and the application of fencing difficult, but at this point I don't think I'd trade my rorshach blot pastures for a bare rectangle of grass!
 
My previous laptop never exploded like that. Read this tiny ad while I sweep up the shards.
Rocket Mass Heater Manual - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/8/rmhman
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic