We are aiming for a 100% grassfed dairy herd so Pasture Management is a big part of what we do. As a dairy farmer hoping to make delicious milk my biggest priority is getting the cows access to the best quality food whatever the time of year. From late April- November that means grasses and legumes that I manage as pasture.
My basic grazing plan is that my herd (33 cows- 10@1000lbs and 20@1400-1600lbs) move to a fresh 6/10-acre paddock every 12 hrs. This is the very formulaic version of what I do every day but I am not so rigid in reality and when the grass looks good they may get that 6/10ths but when I am wishing that it were taller or more dense or the weather is wet they will get a bigger slice. I have many pasture spaces and each of them has a permanent perimeter (in some cases that is a polywire perimeter, others my fathers old barbed wire, and in one case, a five strand high tensile that a previous lessee of the farm must have spent big money on) the interior of each pasture is divided up into sections with single strand polywire and pigtail posts.
I am in my second season now and I have made new discoveries but my pet grazing theory this year it to be careful to leave enough residual. I have found that pastures come back quicker when you don’t take them as low. It makes plenty of sense and maybe its not a huge breakthrough but it makes me feel really good to see my cows walk into a field of knee high grasses and then to see them leave it at more like six or eight inches than two.
We got a grant this year called EQIP and it is going to help us get underground pipe that will carry well water to each pasture so that its easy to implement my picky grazing system and make sure the cows have plenty of water everywhere they roam. Thank you USDA!