Warning, poop photos!
One of the many benefits of having the herd always on the move is manure distribution. A cow herd in a tight group, on the move, will evenly distribute nutrients (poop) throughout a pasture. In season long grazed pastures (cows left in a pasture for weeks at a time), nutrients will not be evenly distributed. Manure will accumulate near water tanks and shade. These ‘loafing areas’ will have high nutrient and pest loads that result in health and water quality problems. In our “herd on the move” system, cow pies don’t pile up in a few locations. We mimic natures pattern of herds grazing, trampling and pooping and then moving on. Where in nature do you find animals standing around for days in their own poop and pee?
Nice manure distribution and trampling of stockpiled forage. (~one pile about every 30 sq. ft.)
This early April photo shows excellent ground cover and manure distribution. The herd has grazed and trampled the standing stockpiled grass, left their “calling card” and moved on. Left over grass flat against the ground with a dose of manure and pee wakes up soil microbes. Soil microbes and other critters will do their magic to create a new lush prairie. What a wonderful cycle. While the herd consumes their current harvest of grass, they set the stage for a future harvest! How can man improve on this system? Unfortunately man in many cases has complicated this process.
“The cattle business is a simple business; the hard part is keeping it simple.” Tom Lasater, Colorado rancher.
Not all paddocks will have the excellent manure distribution shown in the photo above, but many do. I did a quick count of piles in the area shown above. With some math we estimate about 1,450 piles per acre! Prior to our herd arriving on the farm in 2011, the pastures were nutrient starved, remember we need the poop!
Warning, close up photos!
So why did I call these cow pies, calling cards? Have you herd of dung beetles? Unfortunately I do not have a photo of a true dung beetle, but below you can see what kind of activity these “calling cards” result in.
Fresh calling card, less than one-half hour old, has attracted lots of activity. Note the numerous holes. Beetle at yellow arrow.
Sphaeridium Beetle, not a true dung beetle, is starting the process of breaking up the pile (holes).
An old dried out cow pie doesn’t do much good. Old cow pies will actually smoother out grass causing “dead” patches in a pasture. By keeping the herd tight, many piles are physically broken up as the herd moves around. Critters like this little beetle are an important step in decomposition. This little beetle is a sub-aquatic critter that can fly along with the herd. What an amazing cycle, critters that live predominately in a moist environment are able to travel far up the landscape to dry hill tops or wherever they find the cows “calling card”.
We are thankful for the patterns established in nature by our Creator. We are happy to help orchestrate the natural process in our pasture. Please give us a call if you would like to visit the pastures and see the herd in “mooootion”.