Monday, September 12, 2016

Holistic/Regenerative Grazing to Become a Requirement on Federal Grazing Leases?

A bill introduced into Congress last spring.   shows  that holistic or other regenerative grazing methods may be required before long as a condition to graze federal permits. As everyone "knows" this is going to mean a lot of what I call "recreational fencing." The reason I call it that is because the fencing isn't really necessary to control where and when cattle graze. Actually leaving  one or more herders in the cattle isn't necessary either. 

While call cattle herd animals we also think it is natural cattle instinct for them to graze apart. One of the unorthodox beliefs of those who claim the vast herd of bison, as well as the vast herds of grazing wildlife in Africa, is that these herds are controlled by predators.  There are the same amount of predators at anytime of the year, so if predators were actually the control mechanism for herds to come together into the mega herds, they would be together year round. Instead they come together in times of plentiful feed and water ("mysteriously" coinciding with breeding season) and break apart in times of less feed and water.  Basically these animals come together in times when competitive stress for feed and water is nonexistent, and break into smaller groups when they are forced to competing for feed and water.

Basically cattle are no different. Once you remove handling stress, and they do not have to compete for water, they will come together just as the wild herds do.  By instilling this behavior in cattle it is possible to follow complex grazing plans in nearly any sort of terrain by simply taking them off of water each day (when they are ready to go back out to graze) and setting them on the path you wish them to follow. This not only eliminates the need for multiple small pastures, it also eliminates the one thing which causes poor animal performance in these systems, which is estimating the feed for a day, and using temporary fencing to hold them there.  There will be times when you may need to change their grazing paths daily, and other times you may be able to let them go for several days. In riparian areas, you need to pick them up as they come to water and change where they will water, then when they are ready to go graze, send them on a new grazing path. Their proximity to each other will be as close together, or as far apart as forage dictates. The better the forage, the closer together they will be.

 This short video will give you an idea of how much cattle behavior can change in as little as five days. While watching this, notice the mountains in the background. By using the effects of herd behavior, this rancher managed to graze these  mountains at a high density the following winter, which resulted in the regeneration of two cool season grasses which were thought to be extinct in the area. Over the past ten years he has also reduced his grazing requirements from 90 acres per cow (with supplemental feeding for 5 months and weaning calves at 4 months) to only 25 acres per cow, eliminating all supplement but sea salt, and keeping his calves until they are 10 months old.
Between now and the 10th of October I will be producing a professionally filmed and edited, drone based video to show how the process of rebooting herd instinct is accomplished. I will describe the various techniques to turn cattle with indirect pressure to reduce stress on the cattle,  then demonstrate each one several times, with the drone following at an angle where you may see the exact angles being used, as well as the animal's behavioral response. The drone will then follow me through the process of rebooting herd instinct into 300 head of yearlings so you can track the behavioral changes in the herd throughout the process.

In order to raise the funds for production, I have set up a gofund account to take pre release orders on this video. At the current time, all contributions to this fund of $30 and over will receive a copy of the dvd as soon as editing and captioning are finished. To get your copy now, follow the link below.