Cell Grazing

Generally Miss Jersey and her calf rotate through 2 or 3 paddocks (depending on the season). They spend a week in each paddock before moving onto the next.

This year we decided to step it up a bit and implement a cell grazing system. This involves dividing the paddock into smaller sections (cells). Each day, after milking, the cows move onto the next cell.

cows cell grazing

There are lots of benefits:

  • The cow doesn’t return to the same patch of grass for a longer period – for instance, I should get approximately 10 cells out of this paddock and they will not come back to this cell for 3-4 weeks.
  • Fertilisation is concentrated in the cell and distributed more evenly overall (cows have favourite spots where they like the hang out and leave manure – not being able to range over the whole paddock helps with this distribution).
  • By not returning to the same area for a longer period parasite loads are reduced.
  • The grass is more uniformly grazed then has a complete rest until the cow returns. Cows go for their favourite food in the paddock first. So if Miss Jersey spends the whole week with the run of the paddock, she’ll go straight for dessert first and frequently, potentially overgrazing some areas and under grazing others.
  • It’s a special treat every day when the cow gets moved to the next cell. Cows LOVE a new patch of grass.

The negatives:

  • You need some gear – I use temporary electric fence wire, heavy duty pig tail posts ($7.50 each) and wire reels (a good one is $100) – I use about 12-18 posts and 2 reels for Miss Jersey her calf’s rotation system. I have to use significantly more equipment when dividing the large paddocks for the beef cows, so these guys are on bigger cells with a weekly rotation (30-40 posts and 3 reels).
  • Depending on your rotation schedule, daily for Miss Jersey and calf, it has to be moved regularly. This can take me 20 minutes as a solo endeavour, though I’m not very efficient at pulling out the right length of wire and sometimes end up going back and forth making adjustments. I’m still working on my system for this. You could set up something more permanent = more cost/less work.
  • It takes a bit of trial and error to get the cell size just right – there needs to be enough food, but not too much that it is not used efficiently. Access to the water source can involve a bit of messing around too – if Miss Jersey cannot access the paddock trough a temporary water source needs to be set up.

Jersey cow cell grazing

Right now we have a stack of grass so I’m rotating these two across two one acre paddocks, after we cut hay there will be a third paddock available but whether we will need it depends on what sort of season we have – at the moment it is looking very good, so I may be able to stick with two paddocks for a bit longer and give the sheep a cycle through the third.

I’m not getting any complaints from Miss Jersey and she’s happy to give up her milk, so all is right with the world.

Bee Garden and Glasshouse

Bee Garden GlasshouseA long overdue bee garden update!

When designing this garden, our plan was for it to be:

  • beautiful
  • bee attracting/provide more bee forage for a longer period
  • water efficient
  • be at it’s peak (and survive) through our hot summers

The garden is being created in stages – the original design did not contain a greenhouse as though I’ve wanted one for a long time, my campaign was finally successful last year! I quickly adapted my plans to accommodate!!


Stage 1: Citrus and Herb garden next to the shed (completed late 2014)
Stage 2 Retaining wall (June 2015) and the beds for the main potager/bee forage garden. This garden has a framework of herbaceous perennials, herbs and kitchen edibles such as artichokes, lettuce, chives and rainbow chard and the planting out was done September/October 2015. You can see the front of this garden in the top photo (taken in January), the back of the garden is shown in the photo below (taken early February 2016). It really took off once planted.

 

Stage 3Greenhouse, path and second bee forage/potager garden. The photo below was taken early February 2016 – the greenhouse was completed early November 2015 and then the garden beds laid out. When we make our garden beds, we load them up with manure and usually let this settle for about 3 months before planting – I didn’t wait as long this time around and did some of the permanent planting of non-edibles around the greenhouse and birch tree, and later some temporary planting in the rest of the garden bed to make use of the growing season. Some of the plants took a bit longer to get going, but they really hit their stride by mid-summer.
bee in borage

 

Still to do:

Stage 4: Frog pond and Fernery (possibly over Winter this year)
Stage 5Blueberries and Hydrangeas along the fence (we had planted small blueberries this year, but they didn’t get enough water and didn’t make it through the summer, so this is back on the schedule when blueberries become available.
Stage 6Paving under bee hives, lawn area and pondless water feature.
We’re hoping to have it completed by the end of 2016. I can’t wait until it’s done as it’s looking amazing and I love spending time in this garden.