Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why We Believe in Rotational Grazing

This is the back pasture where the two horses and Sara have been for the past several months.  It's obvious that it is severely over-grazed in this lower part which is the animals' favorite place.  We wish we could manage it differently, dividing it up into smaller paddocks where we could rotate the animals and force them to graze more evenly.  However, there are a few things preventing us from doing that right now.

Earlier in the summer we had Brandy in the lower pasture to help her "separate" from Angel, but when the heat index started climbing into the 100°s, we moved Brandy into this pasture because it has better shade.  Near the pond is a grove of trees which provides much cooler shade than the run-in shed where Brandy was seeking shade in the other pasture.  And even though the pond isn't as huge or deep as we'd like, it's still a reliable water source that we didn't have to worry would run dry in the extreme heat.
After a couple months of not being grazed, even without rain, the lower pasture has plenty of grass.  Now that temperatures are cooler, the run-in shed and the trees overhanging the edges of the field provide adequate shade.  It's time to move the animals off the poor, over-grazed back pasture into this one.

Ideally, we would like to divide this pasture into at least two sections.  The run-in shed would provide shade in this end, and there is one decent shady area at the far end.  Our problem is water.  Right now the only water we have is at the far end of the pasture, and it comes from a series of hoses strung down the hill from the house.  It's not possible to string enough hoses together to get water to this end of the pasture.  So for now, we'll have to content ourselves with moving the animals back and forth from one pasture to the other until we can get adequate shade and water to subdivide into paddocks.
Shoot!  This is tricky! How do we get the animals from the back pasture (left) to the lower pasture (right) when the gates don't match up?

For Angel and Brandy, it was as simple as putting their halters on and leading them from one to the other!  Unfortunately, Sara isn't quite so amenable to being led--she won't even let us close enough to put on a halter!
Chute!  That's the answer for Sara!  We opened the pasture gate (left) and added a corral panel to reach the fence and make one side of the chute. 
The other side of the chute was longer.  Another open gate and a second corral panel weren't quite long enough to close the gap--a gap that Sara would certainly exploit!  Rather than go up to the barn and take apart the round pen to get another panel, I suggested that we use our trusty Beast!  It actually looks a bit "fence-y" and plenty substantial that no cow is going to try escaping through there!
In the end, all it took was some feed in a pan, and Sara hurried after me through the chute into the new pasture with barely a glance around her.  She made short work of her feed and settled right down to enjoy the new grass along with Angel and Brandy.

We hope it will start to rain soon so the ground will get soft enough to use our post-hole digger.  When it does, we have one more pasture to fence in, the one on the hill behind our house that runs down to join the far end of this pasture.  Our plan is to fence that hill with a double gate right across from the double gate of this pasture so we can open all four gates to meet across the road and make a chute for the animals to pass into the hill pasture.  Then up by the barn, we want another double gate that opens the same way into the barn yard (which we also plan to build once the ground is soft).

Without having to add any water lines, that will give us three pastures for rotating our animals; that's Stage 1.  Once that's implemented, we'll look at water and shade options for subdividing the pastures into paddocks.  That will be Stage 2.  Everything in its own time!


  1. It's nice catching up on your news. We missed you all while you were offline! Hope you can get the third pasture done before we get there. We certainly want to be able to see Sara milked up at the barn so we can have fresh milk in the mornings without having to take a jog down the hill ;-)

  2. Yeah, it'll definitely be a little cold to run down the hill and milk out in the pasture! Can't wait for you to see our calf--and for us to see it, too! :) One of my frustrations at being offline was not being able to blog. All I could do was get my pictures ready in folders, so once I was back on I could get busy. :)


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