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Hilly



Posts : 388
Join date : 2010-09-24
Location : Sylvan Lake, Alberta

PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:19 pm


As has been mentioned we are having a bit of a cold snap, my truck said -31 and with the breeze it was easily in the -40’s when I took this picture.



This group is 15 days away from finishing their first field of the year, making it possible to calculate 330 cows per acre per day this year with once a day moves.
This is the same field I took the swathing picture on earlier;



I tried to scan the feed test results of this field to give an idea what they are eating...

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PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:48 pm

What is that feed Hilly?
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Hilly



Posts : 388
Join date : 2010-09-24
Location : Sylvan Lake, Alberta

PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:53 pm

Around 2/3 oats and 1/3 peas I would guess, we trickle in some leftover wheat from grain seeding as well to clean up any unused (don't tell Grassy) treated Embarassed seed off the trucks.
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Grassfarmer



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Location : Belmont, Manitoba, Canada

PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:33 pm

Dammit Hilly, after finally deciding on a "system" after pondering it for 3 years you had to post this. 330days/ acre with feed of that quality after I just convinced myself I wasn't going to swath graze. And then to top it off you have surplus cheap seed to sell me cheers

Just kidding... have decided to try and seed oats and maybe red clover very early, silage it at or before milk stage to get the same quality you have in your sample there and then graze the regrowth later in the fall. I think it would suit our moisture conditions/field characteristics better. Have you ever used the Baler oat variety?
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PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:46 pm

Very impressive stand... How much N did you put on?
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Tom D
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PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:48 pm

Hilly wrote:

I took a few pictures of some of the swath at swathing time, mid October generally seeded the first week in July. This particular crop is predominantly oats and peas with just a little wheat, high quality that I use mostly for pairs.



I can get better tonnage with straight oats and generally feed that to the March calving cows and pull almost a point off the cows over winter with that feed. All swath is fertilised with 60 lbs of N in anhydrous and when the cows are on it I supplement with lose minerals to offset the imbalance in this type of crop, although it is the higher milking cows that go down first if the loose mineral is absent so you may be able to argue the need.

The frustrating thing with this system is that I don’t utilise the heat units in May and June, I have tried a few things like seeding crops that will regrow in the spring with mixed results, compaction, mud, and sometime with a dry year sucks up to much of the moisture needed to germinate the new crop. I have also tried corn, but we get borderline enough heat and the cows per acre per day was not much better than the oats with more cost.

I am interested in incorporating AC GreenFix http://acgreenfix.com/ in the swath grazing and eliminate the 60lbs of N has anyone tried it?

I have bits and pieces spread all over on the subject so the following are old posts and need not be reread...



The cows in the picture are going to the left, the fresh snow makes it hard to see but they do not leave anything but dirt, manure and some stubble if you move them once a day. The government test stations do weekly and monthly moves and most of the folks I see around here are doing the same and it is no wonder to me that swath grazing has become a swear word with all the waste.

Most of the profit in a year here comes from the swath, some of the ground has been in swath for 16 years and with the even manure distribution we only put down 60 lbs of N and no dry. Leaf disease can be a problem with barley but oats have no problem, so with the rotation of fields we only have to spray once before seeding.

Another thing that made a big difference was to swath perpendicular to the fence as you can regulate swath easier and less waste due to manure. On a group this small there are a few challenges, if I were to get 3 or 4 feet of snow or -40 or colder with a wind, I don't have a mob big enough to get out and dig and no matter what size of group the windrow has to be big enough to justify the work to get to it and we have found 20 feet or bigger is needed around here. We do not get the wind some do but as we swath the feed green it takes about 50mph wind to start to move some swath, if there is no snow cover. I think if I had less snow and more wind I would strip graze without swathing.

It takes about 20min to move the fence on the average, so I do like to run bigger groups. If you were in a hurry 5 min would move the cows, but you would need to set up fences in advance as the secound fence is very important in snow to ensure that if the cows get out it is only into tomorrow’s feed. Any disturbance in the snow will lead to ice in the swath and waste. The biggest problems I have are Chinook winds that melts snow and creates layers of ice, the older cows know to use their jaw to break through but young stock try to use their nose and they get fairly raw. The other problem is wildlife, in a hard winter there can be large herds.

We have modified galagers pigtails by cutting an inch off the step-ins and sharpening them so they work in frozen ground but if the snow and drifts get big enough and hard enough I just push them into the snow (not right at a swath).

We have not tried to swath hay, only annuals and leave the grass for muddy times in the spring. I would worry that swathed hay may rot too easy but in the right conditions it could work.

I seem to be a little long winded!! This is only what has evolved on our farm, the numbers work but I am sure could be improved. I have not read the books that are out there and probably should. When the snow is deep and the wind is blowing, the job saves on a gym membership. But when I think about the dairy days and working with all the equipment that refused to run at cold temps, as well as the countless hours putting up winter feed the old way, I and the cows can live with the extra exercise.


These are July pairs on a once a day move and you can see on the left that the calves creep out ahead of the cows.



One of the creepers



This is a look back and you can see that three days ago they had too much feed and they are using the waste as bedding, this is once a day moves you can guess what it would look like on weekly or monthly moves.



These are some March dry cows on swath





Page 1 of this thread Greg.
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Hilly



Posts : 388
Join date : 2010-09-24
Location : Sylvan Lake, Alberta

PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:07 pm

Grassfarmer wrote:
Dammit Hilly, after finally deciding on a "system" after pondering it for 3 years you had to post this. 330days/ acre with feed of that quality after I just convinced myself I wasn't going to swath graze. And then to top it off you have surplus cheap seed to sell me cheers

Just kidding... have decided to try and seed oats and maybe red clover very early, silage it at or before milk stage to get the same quality you have in your sample there and then graze the regrowth later in the fall. I think it would suit our moisture conditions/field characteristics better. Have you ever used the Baler oat variety?


Due to the fact that we are predominantly a grain farm we have always used the same grain varieties to seed the swath, the oats we have used for over 20 years are Derby and are the variety in this feed sample and picture.

My cousins that run straight cattle have used Baler for their swath and are happy with the results, I’m not sure if they have some feed tests from this same growing year that I could compare.

In a straight oat application I would think that a silage variety would make the feed more palatable, when we mix with peas or barley it is less of a concern.
That being said, we have for the first time ran out of Derby seed and have some Baler lined up for next year... I guess the short answer would have been no Rolling Eyes

Here is another redundant picture that I took today of a group of pairs on daily moves, as it turns out I gave them too much today due to the Canary grass making the amount of swath a bigger guess but we these temps I didn’t want to be short.
Anyway this is typical of the type of excessively wet fields we use for swath grazing acres.

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PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:00 pm

ahh, thanks Tom. I have been properly rebuked.

Actually, after thinking about this overnight, I believe I will take a page out of Jack's book...
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sanjose



Posts : 20
Join date : 2011-12-13
Age : 58
Location : Williams Lake B.C. Canada

PostSubject: Swath Grazing   Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:08 pm

It sure is good to see Hilly's cattle looking after themselves in minus 40 weather. Our cold weather is going to break and supposedly will be above zero in a week. A friend from out west called about three days ago and his morning temp was minus 55 as read on the thermometer. I didn't ask if the wind was still blowing too. This cold snap has happened at the same time our grass was running out at the lease place so we will probably start feeding tomorrow. We got a week farther than last year and didn't have to start any machinery during the big freeze so we will have to be happy with that. Lots of stories around here about tractors that wouldn't go or hydraulic pump and starter problems this last week. And that was added to the frozen pipes in trailer houses and waterers. Nothing like a few days of minus 35 or 40 to show the chinks in the armor.
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Hilly



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Join date : 2010-09-24
Location : Sylvan Lake, Alberta

PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Sun Dec 29, 2013 10:29 am

As has been mention in other posts we are having one of those harsher winters and I thought I’d post an update over here on the challenges we are having with our swath grazing.

For the most part its going fine, snow is too deep to walk so snowshoes are in full use and we have no problem putting the pigtails in as we just push them into the snow and as long as they are not above a swath the snow will hold them upright.

The more unique problem we are having this year is the fact there is no frost in the ground so with -40 up top and mud underneath has caused moist conditions at swath level which in turn weakens the stalks of the plants so when the cows dig down, grab a mouthful and pull instead of as usual pulling a large portion of swath off the ground and up a few feet closer to the surface in the snow they are only getting a little more than a mouthful, which in the end is not a big deal except the edges of the swath some times are left.

As with every year the deer and elk are our biggest problem and this year its worst than most as the snow is so deep that they are moving onto the swath in large numbers. With no frost in the ground it compounds the problem as once they walk on the swath it drives the frost into the mud underneath freezing the wet swath to the ground making it near impossible for the cows to pull it up.

Another problem unrelated to the swath grazing is the pairs and in particular the first calve heifers pulling down, as well as frost bit on nursing cows with wind chills close to -50. I have finally early weaned the calves off the younger cows and have blown the dust off the grain drum to supplement the younger summer calving cows as they pull down too far with the calves on them and we are not even half way through winter yet, they have responded well.

All in all things are going good and we should still have enough swaths to get us through to spring.
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PatB



Posts : 352
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Age : 53
Location : Turner, Maine

PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Sun Dec 29, 2013 1:17 pm

Good ;luck with your swath grazing. How does it work when you get and inch of ice in the beginning of the season?
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Grassfarmer



Posts : 714
Join date : 2010-09-27
Location : Belmont, Manitoba, Canada

PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:17 pm

Hilly wrote:
...instead of as usual pulling a large portion of swath off the ground and up a few feet  closer to the surface in the snow they are only getting a little more than a mouthful,...

Only in Canada, lol

It's a learning experience for me and now I understand why the old timers built corral systems where they could feed cows for 200 days.
On our young cows that are getting fed silage the challenge is just getting around. We use portable windbreaks and feed bunks and feed out in the fields. Normally the cows flatten down enough snow that its easy to move the bunks ahead a few yards every time you feed but this year not so much. If I lift a bunk and move it ahead, when I set it down the snow is so deep its already full so there is nowhere to put the silage. So you need to plow an area clear each time you move bunks - set off the silage wagon, plow a square, move bunks, hook silage wagon back on, feed. The next time you go the piles you plowed up are set like concrete so careful not to tip the tractor on them while plowing the next pad. This is all taking place a mile from the yard so keeping an access road open is another challenge with the drifting. My Hutterite neighbour's 425hp 4wd with 15 foot blade is useful on fresh untouched snow but struggles to push the frozen or hard packed stuff.

My calves usually winter out on the same system but are being corral wintered this time. I'm just not tempted to spend the time and energy to go through the same procedure for them. Expended enough energy shovelling 5 feet of snow out of my crowding tub and chute to run them through recently.

On my mature cows I must confess I'm trying "bale grazing" this year Embarassed  It certainly has its advantages in a year like this but is not without its challenges either. Geographically it made sense given that I rent a hay field 5 miles from home but only 2 miles from a piece of run down pasture I have that is mechanically inaccessible in winter. So we made hay with the intention of having it placed before winter - but its Alberta - so the bale picking truck promised in September turned up in November after the first two feet of snow. Hired the Hutterites grader to plow a path to the bales (which I had to place in rows) then plow a path to the wintering site. Meantime i'd got my hay analyzed to discover it was significantly short of protein but OK apart from that.
This is currently my pet peeve with bale grazing, all the articles on it I've never seen it stressed the importance of hay quality. According to an extension specialist I spoke to most guys don't feed test it. Not too convenient to supplement protein in a bale grazing situation at a distance from home without compromising a lot of the cost savings. So I bought some second cut bales and placed them strategically among the others to produce a balanced ration. The mule deer sure winter well on free-choice second cut bales.
Feeding the bales is going OK - once the deer got into the way of leaving the wires up. Wastage isn't visibly as much as I had expected, I doubt if they waste more that 20lbs off a second cut bale. The manure test tells me the protein still isn't where it should be so I added some 100% NPN blocks which seem to be working. Not a cheap system as hay consumption thus far is costing us @$1.50/day based on opportunity cost of the bales. I haven't weighed some bales yet to ascertain the true consumption levels and work out the economics more precisely. The system certainly looks to offer advantages in that it is scale neutral, saves some time and gets over the challenge of transporting feed to animals in deep snow.

One thing I've noticed with both lots of cows this winter - they seemed to be struggling to get by on snow and both lots did markedly better when given access to a water source. That makes no sense to me as we have plenty snow, its wet snow and they are experienced in wintering on snow. Another thing I've noticed, like the ground not being frozen, the river is hardly frozen. Fell through up to above my knees yesterday which ended my slight curiosity about "polar bear dips" - cold enough with insulated boots, pants and coveralls on affraid 

But the saving grace of all this snow, with unfrozen ground, is that we might get a soil moisture boost from it rather than have it run off when things warm up 3 months from now.
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PatB



Posts : 352
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PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:03 pm

Good luck this winter is already trying with snow and ice here. The forcast calls for more snow and below normal cold periods. The cows seem to do better with access to moisture in the liquid form. The better the hay quality the lower amount of waste.
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sanjose



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Age : 58
Location : Williams Lake B.C. Canada

PostSubject: Winter Grazing   Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:12 pm

Hello All, This is quite a winter for all of us up here. This year we grew lots of stockpile and chose to keep all of our bred heifers to grow the herd to take advantage of the extra grass we are growing. We estimated that we had enough grazing to get us into February. A foot of early snow in November put the pressure on but they were doing good. Early December brought mild weather and a little rain which took the snow down to about 4 inches with no crust. Then a short cold snap came and put a crust on the snow and another foot of snow had us feeding everything by about Dec. 10th. Here in British Columbia we have not had the extreme cold that Grassy and Hilly have been experiencing and we are thankful for small mercies but this is likely going to have us feeding four months from the expected two. Feed is in abundant supply here but not cheap like the prairies. This is dissapointing as far as inputs or direct costs go but we suppose the grass will still be there when the snow leaves in March and we can quit feeding while we watch our cows go back to grazing and the neighbors keep rolling out feed and drag frozen calves to hot boxes. There is always next year.
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PatB



Posts : 352
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PostSubject: Re: Swath grazing   Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:41 pm

The oldtimers here say plan for the worse and hope for the best. Translation is have enough feed to start feeding in mid october thru end of may but most winters you can shave couple months off of that feeding time here. Stock piled forage would be disaster this year with the ice, snow and rain we are getting. Had to change my bale feeding plans/location for the winter due to weather and snow amounts.

Good luck to all those that are using stockpiled forage or swath grazing and may the weather cooperate in the new year.
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