Thursday, June 18, 2015

Multi-paddock VS Herd Instinct Effeciency/Cost Comparison

This weeks post ties in with my last post of How do you know you are doing a good job? Make no doubt about it, multi-paddock grazing greatly improves the soil while increasing your carrying capacity and your bottom line. Just how does multi-paddock stack up to building  and using herd instinct in your cattle?

The claim is that moving fences is easy, and in many cases, only takes a few minutes. At roughly 3:58 in this video, the man explains that it takes him 18 minutes to run the wire for his electric fence, then he has to move the cows. Later he says he is doing this up to five times a day. That may not sound like much until you start adding up the time.

That is an hour and a half a day or 45 hours a month during the growing season. Where he is, that is roughly 5 months,or 225 hours. Of course this does not take into account drive time, or fixing fence, or the cost involved in posts wire, chargers and moving portable water points etc.

Using herd instinct to his advantage, and increasing his pastures to 100 acres would give him roughly 20 days feed. Time spent to have cattle graze in exactly the same manner would amount to going out once a day to check on the cattle by simply going to the front and having the cattle walk past him would be roughly 20 minutes a day.or the equivalent of 5 work weeks in other professions... Or one and a quarter month's vacation. Even figuring his time at only $10 an hour using herd instinct would save him $2,000 over the course of the growing season in time alone.

So the first question on everyone's mind is "What about herd density?" Not to worry, cattle behaving as a herd will graze at least as tight as when forced into it by fencing, if not tighter as in the following picture.
The above picture is a herd of 528 cows (many with calves) in a 200 acre pasture. They were this tight because they wanted to be this tight, not because they were forced into it. In the long run, the stress reduction of them wanting to be in a tight area vs being forced into one will result in heavier calves adding even more to your bottom line. 
The second question is always "What about back grazing?" Why would there be? Cattle prefer fresh feed. In small pastures they will start on the perimeter and graze around. When they go to water, they will go back to where they left off to resume grazing. Once the have grazed around the pasture, they move in to the next strip on their own, continuing to follow the fresh feed, until there is no more fresh feed. At that time, simply move them into the next field. 
For more information and videos, my website.

Monday, June 8, 2015

How Do You Know You Do A Good Job?

If Bud Williams was even half right with his opinion that "95% of the people who work cattle for a living, have no idea how cattle really work" would mean that roughly half of the ranchers and hired hands have never seen cattle worked right. With that in mind, how sure are you that you are really doing a good job handling cattle? If you haven't seen cattle worked in the right way, then how can you get a clue you aren't doing it as well as you could?

The following is a short list of common problems. If you don't have any of these problems, congratulations, you are doing an excellent job. If you have fewer than four of these problems on a regular basis, you are doing a fairly good job. If you have more than half of these problems, you may be getting the job done, but thinking you are doing a good job is only your ego talking.

1) If you blame the cattle for how they react to you 
2) Your cattle won't stay where you put them
3) You have a lot of herd quitters
4) Cattle won't stay paired when you are driving them
5) Cattle are wild in the pens
6) Cattle won't go by you when sorting
7) You need rattle paddles or flags to sort cattle
8) Cattle can't find the gate
9) Cattle want to run off instead of going into the pens
10) You have areas where it is a foregone conclusion the cattle are going to give you a problem

The first step in getting better at the job is realizing that nearly everything they do is a direct response to how we are handling them in that situation. The second step is realizing that it is often possible to get the reaction you want out of a cow without putting pressure directly on the cow, and learn how to get the desired response without applying more pressure. There are plenty of websites and videos on the internet to help you get started on the right path.

Another difficult area for ranchers to really know how good a job they are doing is in grass management. Once again, if you are only comparing your pastures to your neighbors, chances are you have no idea of how much grass you could really have. NRCS has  drastically changing their grazing recommendations in the last few years as demonstrated in this video.  

The point to all of this is we are all biased to think we are doing a good job on the ranch. But how much room do we have to drastically improve the quality of our work?

It is possible for most ranches to increase the pounds of beef they produce per animal by simply changing the way they handle their cattle. This actually requires less labor than what they are doing now to increase their profits.

The majority of ranches could also increase forage production enough to increase stocking rates by changing how they graze. While the average ranch reduced stocking rates and fed more supplement, other  ranches managed to actually increase forage enough to increase stocking rates while feeding no supplemental feed.

While many ranches judge their overall performance on average weaning weights, the most successful ranches strive for the most pounds of beef marketed per acre. Do you still think you are doing a good job on your ranch? If you think you have room for improvement, visit Natural Cattle Handling for more information as well as other educational links.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Allowing 2,200 Head Of Cattle To Act As A Herd

A recent stockmanship school in Australia allowed me to get much of the footage in this video. The herd included 2,200 head of  branded Brahmas plus around 300 head of unbranded cattle. As participants in this school learned, instilling herd instinct is not a "recipe" you can describe. It is more a matter of changing how we handle cattle and allowing them to come together as a herd.

I need to give a special thanks to Rodger Savory and the folks at NQ Dry Tropics for making this video possible, as well as to my good friend Evelyn A Roper for the background music.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Using Cattle Instinct To Turn Them

One of the things we often forget when handling cattle is that we can use their instincts to our benefit. One of these instincts is for cattle to go around us. When sorting cattle out of a pen, or getting them to go to other cattle in the pasture most of us tend to go to the front of the cow to force them to turn. As this short video shows, this is not necessary.  Using their instinct to go around us lets them turn and go without the stress of us getting in their face.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Underestimation of lost rainwater

If you read my post on Why Climate Change scientists are clueless and were amazed at the amount of water which runs off after a rain, I underestimated it. Actually I grossly underestimated it as the following picture illustrates.

 How much more water would have gone into this ground if cattle were being run as a herd instead of being scattered out? The picture below would have had hundreds of tracks to fill with water instead of just two, which would have captured the water instead of letting it run away.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Calculating the cost/benefit of the Keyline Plow

Before visiting the link from the Circle Ranch on using the Keyline Plow, here are some things to think about in order to see the financial benefits as many people can see the benefits, but think it is too expensive. Yet these same people are busy making diversion dams and dirt tanks which help some, but basically are diverting water or holding it so it can water a few cow and evaporate.

The cost of sub soiling with the Keyline Plow runs $20 an acre, which does sound expensive, until you compare the results. $20,000 put into subsoiling 1,000 acres of ground with scattered grass and forbes will explode with the first one inch rain (remember, that 1,000 acres just received 27,154,000 gallons of water which would have run off). This explosion of grass and forbes will slow the water and make each subsequent rain be more effective.

Grazed properly this can amount to 7 to 9 days of feed for 1,000 cows, or 7,000 grazing days the first year. If one continues to graze properly, the feed will continue to improve for several years and continue to hold its feed value (not to mention the wildlife habitat it creates.) Now lets compare what that same $20,000 will bring with conventional uses.

Dirt Tanks- Will hold water for cattle without producing feed. They will also evaporate water (at a pan evaporation rate of 88” or 55 gallons per square foot) lose 2,395,800 per acre. Figuring the cost of water being .005 cents per gallon, one is basically throwing away $11,979 worth of water per every acre of water held in dirt tanks. If you have 100 acres of water in dirt tanks, you are basically throwing away $1,197,900 worth of water each year.

Diversion dams- These will create some feed growth but basically still divert billions of gallons of water off the ranch rather than into the ground. Many also have a tendency to wash out and need to be repaired after a few years.

Hay- At $230 A 1,000 pound cow eating 3.5% of her body weight will eat 35 pounds of hay a day. To feed 1,000 cows per day would take 17 bales per day. $20,000 will (almost) buy 87 bales of hay which would feed 1,000 cows five days.

This means that spending $20,000 to run a Keyline Plow in the proper areas your money produces nearly twice the actual benefit of hay. While it would be nearly impossible to calculate the true value of diversion dams, they are of minimal benefit as they are still diverting water off your ranch, rather than putting it into the ground. Dirt tanks have some benefit if you do not have pump-able water, but otherwise you are letting millions of dollars worth of water blow away in the wind.

Now that you have an idea of the cost/benefit ratio of the Keyline plow, take a look and see what they have done with it on the Circle Ranch in far west Texas!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why Climate Change Scientists Are Clueless

Like Chicken Little yelling "The sky is falling" climate change scientists are giving reasons behind the phenomenon which are largely unrelated to the actual causes. One of the false flags behind "global warming" is greenhouse gases. They may contribute a small amount, but in reality it is the lack of grasslands which it the biggest contributor.

Early day explorers described the vast majority of western America as a "sea of grass." While there are no stories describing how settlers livestock died of starvation, there are plenty of livestock perishing from a lack of water. Today much of this land has become bare ground because of the lack of proper animal impact. To demonstrate just how much the lack of grass cover reflects heat back into the atmosphere, I checked the air temperature, then checked the temperature on a patch of grass, and also a path of bare ground.
  Notice that the grass covered area is approximately eleven degrees warmer than the air while the bare ground is twenty five degrees warmer than air temperature.

We now have millions upon millions of acres just in North America which have gone from lush grasslands to bare ground and brush in the last 130 years. Add to this the millions of acres of grasslands which have been replaced with buildings and pavement, what is really the cause of global warming? Greenhouse gases (which could be converted to oxygen by grasses) or the depletion of the world's grasslands?

Now lets examine rising oceans. According to scientists, the oceans are rising as a result of the polar ice caps melting. The reason the ice caps are melting, say scientists, is because of rising temperatures. Is this actually the case, or are the ice caps melting due to the ocean levels rising? Once again, the sources of the problem are ignored.                                                                

 The above picture was taken after a thunderstorm dropped under a half inch of rain. As one can see, rather than go into the ground, much of the water is running off.  When a thunderstorm drops two inches and half of it is running off rather than going into the ground, that equals 27,154 water per acre returning to rivers and into the ocean. For every thousand acres this amounts to 27,154,000 gallons of water returning to the ocean, or trillions of gallons of water world wide returning to the sea rather than soaking into the ground.

Adding to the contribution of waters returning to the sea rather than soaking into the ground, is flood control. Water which would flood deltas and return some of it into the ground, are now kept between dykes and returned to the ocean.  How many hundreds of trillions of gallons of water which should be returned to the ground  are now channeled directly into the ocean by the Mississippi River flood control system?
It becomes fairly obvious that the real culprit of rising oceans and temperatures is not greenhouse gases, but depletion of grasslands preventing precipitation from cycling into the ground to replenish ground water, and not insulating the ground. 

Scientists blame depletion of grasslands on "overgrazing."  Keep in mind that this same land which now supports under 90,000,000 cows once supported nearly 300,000,000 bison in addition to millions each of antelope, elk and deer.  The problem is not too many animals on not enough land, but in how those animals are grazed.

Ranchers who have abandoned traditional grazing methods and changed to holistic grazing have actually reversed desertification and restored grasslands. By changing his grazing methods, the rancher below was able to restore the grass on land which was nearly bare to what you see in the picture below. This land has little to no run off because the grasses slow the water and allow it to penetrate the ground.
Mainstream scientists need to get a clue, not only to the real causes of climate change and rising oceans, but in the science behind restoring grasslands to their original state.