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“Mob Grazing” Pays Off For Cattle Producer
Neil Dennis has quadrupled the carrying capacity of his pastures and cut his costs with mob grazing. Concentrating heavy numbers of cattle on small areas also has increased the native grasses, forbs and legumes found on the former croplands. He now hires out as a consultant to other grazers and is a sought-after speaker on mob grazing.
  “I got the idea after moving the herd into a 6-acre paddock before later moving them into one with 40 acres. Regrowth on the small paddock was thicker, and recovery was faster, allowing higher carrying capacity,” says Dennis, who then started experimenting with the idea.
  Since he gets paid for pounds gained on the cattle he custom grazes, carrying capacity is vital to Dennis’ bottom line. Ultra-high stock density grazing has produced twice as many pounds of beef per acre as conventional methods.
  Dennis soon adopted the heavy grazing technique on all his acres. Today he will graze up to 1.3 million lbs. of beef per acre. The cattle quickly graze down available forage, spread the manure across the area, and trample it in with their feet.
  How far the cattle graze down forage before being moved to a fresh paddock depends on things like recovery time. Due to heavy urine on mob grazed acres, recovery time has increased from 60 days to 70 or more. If there’s less rain, Dennis gives paddocks more recovery time.
  Sugar is key, according to Dennis. He wants the cattle to have access to the grass when sugar content of the pasture is high. He takes a sample of the grass, squeezes it into a ball and puts it through a garlic press, squeezing the juice onto a refractometer to check sugar content. He also checks for pH.
  “The more different species and higher densities, the longer they stay in the vegetative state and the longer the sugar is present,” says Dennis. “New, non-stressed bromegrass now has 15 to 18 leaves versus 4, and we can go 120 days between grazing without it deteriorating and dropping leaves like it did after only 60 days.”
  Dennis does some supplemental over seeding, but relies mostly on natural reseeding. He holds off on grazing each paddock at least once a year until the plants have gone to seed. Future grazing presses the fallen seed into the soil, encouraging germination.
  “At times, we’ll take only 20 percent of the vegetative matter the first time a paddock is grazed and then let it go to seed,” says Dennis.
  Bromegrass is a mainstay in Dennis’ pastures. He has seen it adapt and improve with mob grazing at the same time native prairie forbs and grasses returned on their own. Organic matter in the former grain fields has increased from 3 to 10 percent, similar to what native prairies were thought to have. Water infiltration and holding capacity have also increased.
  “It can take as much as 8 in. rain per hour without running off,” says Dennis. “This summer we went a month and a half without rain, but the plants kept growing.”
  Dennis says the “fencing toys” he has developed allow him to move 800 to 1,000 head of cattle as many as 10 times a day. They let him set a quarter mile of fence in 9 min. The BattLatch automatic gate releases (Vol. 38, No. 5), which he also sells, makes shifting cattle much easier.
  One thing Dennis didn’t expect was how much healthier everything grew. The cattle gained faster and no longer required as much medication. One direct way it showed up was mineral consumption; another was change to the land itself.
  “Free choice mineral consumption dropped 90 percent,” he says. “As the land has become healthier, it warms up faster in the spring and doesn’t freeze up as fast in the fall. Even the alfalfa requires a harder frost to kill it.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Neil Dennis, Box 8, Wawota, Sask. Canada S0G 5A0 (ph 306 739-2896; sunnybrae@rfnow.com).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6