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.
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.
- 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.
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.