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Mob Grazing Mob Grazing graze
Mob Grazing Mob Grazing graze
28 Mob Grazing March 2010 Young bulls line up for a new strip of forage at Jared Wareham’s ranch. High-density stocking builds profits back into the cattle business. Story & photos by 20 cows per acre with two-day grazing cow numbers or lease additional land to Intensive grazing eliminates the need Boyd KidWell periods followed by 30-day rest periods. initiate mob grazing. Depending on how for clipping pastures and controls weeds so The operation required tons of hay, quickly your land produces forage, grazing no herbicides are needed. commercial fertilizer and Judy spent pressure must be reduced at first so plants Mob grazing saved Greg Judy’s cattle $5,000 per year on clover seed to plant his grow tall and produce leftover organic Wildlife haven operation. In 1999, Greg and his wife, pastures with legumes. The cattle grazed matter that’s trampled into the soil when You might think mob grazing is Jan, faced losing their farm to bankruptcy. each paddock eight times a year. the paddock is briefly mob-grazed. negative for wildlife, but Judy contends During the past 10 years, Judy has honed Now, Judy manages all three herds as Turning hayfields into pastures is one that planned high-density grazing his grazing management to the point that one big mob of 320 head at a rate of up place to gain grazing acreage. It’s often improves habitat by bringing back warm- he has quit buying seed and fertilizer, to 250,000 pounds (lb.) per acre. Under more cost-efficient to move hayfield acres season grasses and legumes from seed owns no machinery and feeds almost no planned high-density grazing, Judy moves into a grazing rotation and buy a smaller laying dormant in the soil. hay on the livestock operation near Clark, the animals twice a day and paddocks quantity of hay for weather emergencies. Judy actually got one of his long- Mo. are grazed every 140-180 days, or two to Unless an operation produces several term leases because of a high deer At the same time, Judy has doubled the three times per year. By not buying clover hundred tons of hay per year, economists population on his land. He was showing beef production on his land. As a result of seed, Judy saves $5,000 a year and he has point out that most ranchers can’t justify his neighboring landowner, an out- reduced costs and increased production, more legumes in his pastures than before. owning hay equipment. of-state resident, around the mob the Judys have paid off the mortgage on New stands of big bluestem, Indian grass, When forage is ready for mob grazing, grazing land when they jumped several their 300-acre farm and Greg recently switchgrass and gama grass have appeared Judy’s rule of thumb is, “Graze half and whitetails. The absentee landowner is gave up his off-farm job. Greg gives the from seed stored in the soil. leave half.” Under his system, the mob very interested in deer hunting and at credit for this comeback to year-round The grazing ratio has changed from grazes off the most nutritious parts of that time wasn’t managing livestock on mob grazing. 4.5 acres per animal unit (AU=1,000 lb.) the plants and tramples in the remaining his land in hopes of building up the deer “If you feed very much hay or to 2.2 acres per AU and forage production organic matter to increase litter. The population. However, the land was grown supplements, you aren’t making any has doubled. Judy is using the extra forage animals will be in the paddock for a day or up in fescue and broom sedge, not high- money with beef cattle,” Judy says. to expand his cow herd for a grass-fed beef less and the stand will then have a recovery quality wildlife habitat. The whitetails In order to understand mob grazing, business, and he has added 300 head of period of 140-180 days. had moved to Judy’s land for the legumes or planned high-density grazing as Judy hair sheep. Judy manages the livestock on and native grasses brought back by mob also calls the technique, you need to 900 acres (300 acres owned and 600 acres Tools of the trade grazing. understand where the Missouri grazier leased.) Judy manages his cattle operation with “This is where all of my deer have started and how he now operates. “This reduction in grazing acres per a minimum of equipment that includes a gone,” said the landowner, and instantly Before he turned to mob grazing, Judy AU is like having another 600-acre farm, pickup (with a bale unroller for emergency leased his land to Judy. Now the absentee managed three herds of cattle on separate and we don’t even have to pay additional feeding); a four-wheeler; 3:1 geared poly- landowner returns with his family each farms. He used management-intensive land taxes. In our area, 600 acres is worth wire reels; step-in posts; poly-wire fence; year to harvest deer and to fill his freezer grazing (MiG) with pastures divided $1.8 million,” Judy says. and electric fence chargers. with grass-fed beef produced on his own into paddocks, and he managed 16 to Once cattle learn to expect fresh land. The litter effect pasture when the four-wheeler arrives, In addition to deer, Judy sees increased As Judy describes the benefits of mob moving animals to a new paddock takes populations of quail, wild turkey and grazing, he emphasizes one word – litter. less than 30 minutes. Over the weekend, songbirds that flock to the mob-grazing Judy’s planned high-density grazing Judy lays out seven paddocks for the area to eat insects stirred up by the cattle. revolves around building up a heavy week’s grazing pattern. Depending on supply of ground litter (organic matter) forage supplies, Judy lays out paddocks of Mob grazing spreads that shades the soil and soaks up water five to 10 acres each and includes travel Other cattlemen are discovering the from rainfall. When Judy leases a piece of lanes to water supplies and shade. benefits of mob grazing. Jared Wareham land, his first step is to build up litter. As organic matter increases, microbes come alive in the soil. When Judy evaluates a On your own pasture’s health, he gets on his knees and digs for earthworms. Unfortunately, there has been little university research into mob grazing. Most “I examined my soil recently and of the information is coming from ranchers who practice high-density grazing found 15 earthworms in 3 square inches techniques on their own land. A few researchers have set up mob-grazing dem- of soil. The earthworm holes have turned onstrations, but it takes months and years to realize the environmental benefits my pastures into big sponges that absorb ranchers describe that come from building organic matter in pasture soils. rainwater, and earthworm castings build David Davis, superintendent of the Missouri Forage Systems Research Sta- soil fertility,” Judy says. “I don’t fear tion, set up a mob-grazing demonstration in September 2009. Davis is looking droughts any more.” forward to observing how the mob-grazed area recovers this spring. Until more is How to join the mob known about the long-term effects of high-intensity grazing, Davis recommends Mob grazing cut expenses and saved Greg If your pastures are bare coming that producers continue taking soil tests and fertilizing accordingly. Judy’s cattle operation. out of winter, you may need to reduce March 2010 29 of Lowry City, Mo., views mob grazing the grazing season, Wareham is always in points out that mob grazing can be as a tool that makes his operation more stockpiling mode and builds up a supply of flexible. 10 reasons efficient. Wareham mob grazes cows and forage to graze cattle almost year-round. “Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea bulls he raises in a partnership with Flying “When we started using mob grazing of moving cattle once or twice every day. to mob graze H Genetics of Arapahoe, Neb. as a pasture management tool, the farm If you can’t make it out to the pasture for By giving animals new strips of forage quickly transitioned from a monoculture three days, give the herd enough forage Here are Greg Judy’s top 10 rea- twice a day, Wareham currently grazes of fescue to mixed-grass pastures with for that window of time. Rationing forage sons to start planned high-density 150 bulls at a stock density of 250,000 lb. the re-emergence of native warm-season supplies throughout the year significantly grazing. per acre. He manages animal density to grasses,” Wareham says. “We now have reduces the two top profit-draining costs 1. Improve forage quality. meet challenges presented by changes in a diverse community of grasses and some of owning cattle — feed and equipment. forage quality, excessive rainfall and ice species provide grazing in years when Every bale of hay you don’t haul is money 2. Reduce hay and feed costs. storms. Cattle can graze the stockpiled other species don’t perform well.” in your pocket,” Wareham says. 3. Eliminate seed purchases. forage through several inches of snow but As for equipment, Wareham manages 4. Increase legumes and native require hay during ice storms, the Angus his operation with a flatbed truck, a cattle Mob grazing teaches ranchers grasses. bull producer observes. trailer and an ATV. For producers who Texas has a long history of ranchers 5. Reduce weed problems. By making full use of pastures during can’t move cattle every day, Wareham practicing high-density, quick-rotation 6. Minimize equipment costs. grazing that started with Allan Savory in 7. Improve manure distribution. the 1980s. Clifton Marek of Ledbetter, T exas, has been using Savory grazing 8. Improve wildlife habitat. techniques since 1988 and now manages 9. Increase beef production a combination of stockers and brood per acre. cows in a mob-grazing operation on his 10. Increase profits. ranch. Marek doesn’t own hay equipment, applies no fertilizer and doesn’t buy seed. To learn more about Judy’s Cattle do most of the work on the central grazing program, visit T exas ranch. www.greenpasturesfarm.net. At times, Marek manages up to o 300,000 lb. of beef per acre. T make full use of his forage, Marek moves the cattle In 2007, he sold off his stockers and sent twice a day. His extra trips to the pasture the cow-calf herd to graze in Kansas. But save money compared to feeding hay and the veteran rancher is back in business for supplement all winter. 2010, thanks in part to mob grazing. “I don’t have to sit on a tractor and bale “We’ve had the worst two years I’ve hay and then deliver stored feed to cattle ever seen,” Marek says. “But now we’ve in bad weather. I’d rather move cattle got more grass than I’ve ever seen, and than drive a tractor,” says the 70-year-old I think the long rest between grazing rancher. periods helped the forage recover.” Jared Wareham of Lowry City, Mo., moves his polywire fence to give his cattle fresh forage for Like other T exas cattlemen, Marek intensive grazing. Wareham uses mob grazing to make his operation more efficient. has battled drought the past two years.
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