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STOCKPILING PASTURE FOR A LONGER GRAZING SEASON

By Elizabeth Irving

Reprinted with permission, Cognition Fall '94

The rotational grazing system Hubert uses on his organic dairy farm in Eastern Ontario would suit heifers or beef as well as dairy cows. In this land of long, harsh winters, his cows thrive on fresh pasture, with little or no supplemental feed, for eight months of the year or more. His secret? It's stockpiling - taking half of his pasture area out of production at key times of the year to let it regrow.

From early September 1, the cows are pastured on half of the 50 acres of pasture on Hubert's farm, rotating through the entire 25 acre area four or five times over the season by means of temporary fences. During this time, the other 25 acres are used for hay, with the second cut taken off in early July. On September 1, the cows are moved onto the hayed section, now a month into its lush third growth. "This is sufficient to take them through to the first of November," Hubert explains.

Meanwhile, the 25 acres the cows have just left are taken out of production (stockpiled). Part of this area is fenced off and used as pasture from November 1 till the snow is too deep for the cows to paw through. They can manage to graze in up to 6 inches of snow, but when it gets deeper they are put inside till spring. The other part of the fall-stockpiled area is reserved for early spring grazing. If it is well drained, it can be used two to three weeks earlier in the spring, as opposed to a field that was grazed out rather than stockpiled in the fall.

By selectively stockpiling half his total acreage of pasture, Hubert is able to extend the grazing season by many weeks each year. His cows are healthier for the experience and his feed bills are lower.

Copyright 1994 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


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