Recently we shared the photo below of a white poly wire portable fence disappearing into a paddock full of 6 foot tall stockpile.  If you were wondering how in the world we get that done, we give some more info here.

Portable poly wire fence strung through stockpiled pasture.

Portable poly wire fence strung through stockpiled pasture.

It is actually fairly simple, we drive our ATV through the grass to push it down and the poly wire unrolls behind the ATV in the wheel track.  The tough part is walking back through the grass to put in our posts.  Watch this process in action, video below:

So how do the cows know the fence is there or even find it?  With 5,000+ volts surging through this wire, our herd takes good care in knowing where this wire is at all times.  This little white wire is not a physical barrier but a mental barrier.  This simple technology (portable poly wire) allows us to:

  • Easily move cattle
  • Maintain frequent moves to fresh forage, cattle are calm
  • Manage forages to very precise areas
  • Time of graze is highly regulated for proper forage recovery

We moved 20 head of cattle into this patch.  The patch was only about 30 feet wide from fence to fence.

Cows grazing, the fence is along the right side of the photo, just behind the yearling looking at the camera.

Cows grazing, the white poly wire fence is along the right side of the photo, just behind the yearling looking at the camera.  Believe us, the cows know exactly where the white wire is at all times.

The results of this paddock move is shown below.  The goal was to stomp most of this grass to the ground as it was next to one of our permanent fence lines.  The permanent fence is along the left side of the photo below.

The paddock after grazing, we just rolled up the white poly wire.

The paddock after grazing, we just rolled up the white poly wire.

As you can see, the portable poly wire fence did it’s job in keeping the herd exactly where we wanted.  The standing stockpile that remains in this paddock will be grazed later this winter.  The herd was on this patch for just under two days and we were glad we had the forage we did as two inches of rain came before and during this move.

Feel free to stop by any time to see the herd in MOO-tion!

Grassfed beef requires grass, we are grass farmers first.  For grass to grow we need water and we will take it in any form; rain, dew, ice and snow.  This time of year we start to think about a few things:

  • What is our current soil moisture levels?
  • Are we ready for snow?

In a previous post from 2014 we wrote about how important soil moisture is at this time of the year.  Soil moisture now, has a big impact on the grass (and beef) we grow next year.  We are going into the 2017 “water year” in good shape.

Are we ready for snow?  This summer we have been “stockpiling” grass in our pastures for the approaching non-growing season.  Do you see a problem in the photo below?

stockpiled pasture grass

Stockpiled grass in our pasture. Think of this as hay we left in the field for our cows to harvest this fall, winter and next spring.

Grass looks good in the photo.  Pasture soils are covered to protect the stored moisture and ready to capture more moisture through the coming months.  The problem?  The photo shows one of our few permanent fence lines (red arrow) that is all grown up in grass.  We construct daily paddocks using electrical poly wire and we count on these few permanent fence lines to supply the power.  The stockpiled grass will accumulate snow and bury this fence line making it unusable.

Cows to the rescue.

cattle grazing fence lines

Cattle preparing our pasture fence lines in anticipation of snow issues this winter.

The photo above shows how we are currently going around all of our permanent fence lines concentrating the herd to stomp down and eat the grass along our fence lines.  The cattle love their work of preparing the fence lines that protect them year round.

preparing fences for winter

The right side of this fence line has been prepared by the herd and they can’t wait to work on the left side of the fence.

Once the cows complete the job, if we do get that big snow storm, our fences will not be buried.  The fence lines will continue to  function, keeping cattle where we plan to move them.

What about the cows and the stockpiled grass if we get lots of snow?  We do have some hay in the barn as “insurance” and to supplement as needed.  In addition, take a look at our previousl post about cattle grazing snow.  Our cows live in our pastures 24/7/365, snow is something they have no problem dealing with.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to see our cattle in motion.  Cattle properly grazing grass is the best way to grow more grass!

Year round grazing on pasture presents some interesting situations for us grass farmers.  In this past post from July 2015 we demonstrated the results of planned animal impact on a wetland site heavily used through the non-growing season.  Below we show what we had to deal with this past spring when Mother Nature gave us a wet spell.  Here we show the results we see in our pasture now.

Background information for sites shown below:

  1. We know April – early May can be wet, we planned to be here!
  2. This site had about a year of rest since the last graze.
  3. This site needed some animal impact!

The red arrows identify the same objects in the photos from different dates.

Animal impact following spring rain event 2016.

  • After moving them into this patch we obviously had a significant rain event.
  • Before moving into the next patch, we achieved significant animal impact.
  • Cattle are happily grazing on fresh/clean pasture.

What this site looks like now.  You can barely see the nearest rock!

Follow up site visit for animal impact 2016 fall.

  • Our future plan for this site is to avoid the next wet season.
  • Will graze this fall or winter and feed some hay on the site most likely.
  • We will utilize the cattle to lay the large grass stems on the ground.

Below are two more photos of a site nearby.  More severe impact as a result of the prolonged wet period we experienced this spring.

Animal impact following spring rain event 2016.

  • Almost looks like a tilled field!
    • “Cow Tilled”
    • Site absorbed a significant amount of kinetic energy.
      • Hooves and Raindrop energy impact.
  • Remember, this site had heavy sod from brome and native grasses.

Energy into the site released a significant amount of energy through grass growth over the past four and a half months!

Follow up site visit for animal impact 2016 fall.

  • The reason for the selfie?
    • I am six feet tall, some big bluestem seed heads are over my head!
  • This tall rank (lignified) grass will not make good cow food.
    • We will use cows to pick out what they want and;
    • Stomp the grass stems to the ground
      • This is how we add CARBON to the soil.
      • Grass stems stomped on the soil feeds our soil livestock (microbes).
      • We should grow even more grass here next year.

What a wonderful cycle.  Are you worried about too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?  This is how we use cattle to cycle carbon from the atmosphere into grass.  Some carbon is quickly returned to the air, but a significant amount of carbon is transferred into the soil.  Once in the soil we have a great chance of getting the carbon into a stable form (humus).  The more carbon we can extract from the air and put into our soil the more grass we can grow to extract even more carbon!

The best part about this cycle is that cows produce calves while they are doing this work.  Every once and awhile we take a grown calf (steer or heifer) to the butcher.  This gives you the opportunity to participate in the healing of our environment.  Just eat some grassfed beef and support our work and other grass farmers like us.

Head ’em up, Move ’em on – RAWHIDE!  I have to admit this brings back memories of the Blues Brothers more than it does of Clint Eastwood (Rowdy Yates).  To be clear, we are not much for Head ’em up around here.  No whips, yelling or any other commotion near our herd.  Low stress = high quality beef.  (music provided at end of post)

Move ’em ON!

Fresh grass – MOVE – fresh grass – MOVE, is the name of the game at DS Family Farm.  The way nature made the prairies is the method we use to restore and improve our pastures.  Cows have legs and we believe they aren’t made for standing in lots.  So what does Move ’em on look like?  Here is a recent example:

Overview of daily moves. During the growing season a back fence would remain in place after about 3 days (dashed line).

Overview of daily moves. During the growing season a back fence would stay in place after about 3 days (dashed line).  Tap photo for larger view.

In the above photo we start with the herd on November 26th near a water tank.  Temporary wire fences are put up moving away from the tank.  This photo on November 30th, shows the first 4 paddocks have been grazed, cattle have moved into the 5th paddock (most of the cows are just over the hill out of view).  ATV tracks are visible along the future paddock lines, smashed down grass so we can install the fences.  Small square bales are also visible in future paddocks.  This is our non-growing season and we are supplementing the stockpiled grass with hay.  If these moves were during the growing season we would prevent the herd from grazing previous paddocks after the third move (it takes grass about 3 days to start re-growing after being bitten off and we don’t want cows biting off new grass).

Sounds like work?

Paddock setup does take some time but in a few hours we are done with 3 days of moves.  Here’s how automatic Batt Latch gate openers and electric poly wire technology allows the cows to do most of the work:

moves_from_tank

This setup allows us three days off from herd moves.

In the example shown above the cows have just moved into the 11/30 paddock (as you can see they are busy working).  On November 30th we will setup two Batt Latch gate openers on the next two fence lines and a third fence line will stop the cattle from proceeding any further.  We don’t need to show up to work again until December 3rd!

Cows doing the work they love

Don’t get us wrong, we love working with the cows, but this technology gives us flexibility in our schedule.  This setup allows us to do a quick drive by to see if the cows have moved.  Fresh grass and move, fresh grass and move, this is the key to soil health, grassland health, cattle health and ultimately your health.

Cows moved through automatic gate.

Cows moved through automatic gate.

Cows grazing behind Batt Latch gate.

Cows grazing behind Batt Latch gate.

We hope you have enjoyed this post and we invite you to stop by sometime to see our herd in MOTION.  Always pasture grazed, never in lots for your health and ours.  We leave you with some Move ’em on entertainment:

 

Planned pasture grazing requires orchestrating cattle movement.  Yep we think of our cattle moves like making music but we are really trying to get some desired effect applied to the land.  Here is an animal impact example from this past spring.  In an area invaded by reed canary grass our cattle were able to “open up” the land and allow broad leaf arrowhead (a native wetland plant) to express itself:

Broad Leaf Arrowhead

Broad Leaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) a native wetland plant expressing itself due to planned animal impact. Multiple insect species found in this diverse area first week of July.

So what were the steps to make the above effect on the land?  It began in March with a trail setup through this area to move cattle to stockpiled pasture on the other side of the wetland area.

Cattle trail through wetland (marsh) area last week of March, looking West.  Cows didn't mind the walk when they wanted fresh water from tank.

Cattle trail through wetland (marsh) area last week of March, looking West. Cows didn’t mind walking through this area when they wanted fresh water from frost proof tank.

When the trail fence was first setup, the wetland was frozen.  Over the next week the wetland thawed and the animal impact started to appear.  The cattle trailed through this area before “green up” for a couple of weeks.  The area looks kind of nasty in the photo above.

First week of April, looking East.  Cows moved on to different stockpiled pasture area.

First week of April, looking East. Cows moved on to different stockpiled pasture area.

With our continuous move pasture grazing system, we knew this area would “bounce” back in some altered state.  Note in the trail photos above we have “open water” areas predominately in the trail.  This open water provides a “habitat” as a result of cattle impact.

First week of July looking West.  Reed canary grass (non-native grass) has brown seed heads.  Very few brown seed heads in cattle trail area.

First week of July looking West. Reed canary grass (non-native grass) has brown seed heads. Very few brown seed heads in cattle trail area.

The red arrow in the photo above points to the location of the broad head arrow leaf plant photo at the top of this blog post.  The photo below is a close up of reed canary grass next to the trailed area:

Solid stand of reed canary grass next to trailed area.  Very little insect life in this low diversity area.

Solid stand of reed canary grass next to trailed area. Very little insect life in this low diversity area.

Wetland sites are very forgiving when it comes to trying animal impact scenarios.  As we move to upland (drier) sites, animal impact becomes a little more scary.  The main difference is planning the recovery time or how long we have before we can bring the cattle back to the area.

Take another look at the photos above.  What was the difference in total production?  Obviously the solid stand of reed canary grass produced higher forage levels.  What was the benefit provided by the higher diversity of the affected area?  From our observations, cattle enjoy diversity in their diet and wildlife prefer the diversity in habitat.  Feel free to give us a call if you would like to stop by and see our cattle herd impacts… we are always happy to listen to other ideas!