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A Big Day – Cows In

February 4, 2015


It’s been balmy enough that the grass is starting to grow.  Which means it’s time to put the cows in once and for all.  I have over stayed my welcome in the pasture.  Nipping that tender grass now is a no-no.

I dread this chore.  The moving that is, the cows are able to walk there but they have to cross the county road, on a corner, and we have to pick a time with less traffic.  Somewhere between school and work traffic and then onslaught of joggers, bicyclists and dog walkers.  So much for living in the country.

The fifteen minutes it takes to complete this task can go by quite fast or can quickly become a nightmare due to young calves that haven’t crossed the road yet, but are just old enough to not mind their mamas. “You expect me to do what?”  That’s them in the photo above, not too sure about going inside a building, meanwhile everyone else is inside eating comfortably.  Our only problem this morning turned out to be our oldest cow that for some reason decided the fog line was a cattle guard.  She would not cross the road.  So we put her back in the field and put everyone else in.  I went and got a halter and Jane’s long tie out rope, then we proceeded to literally pull and push her across all the lines in the road with us sweating and grunting, and her picking her feet up high like a Saddlebred.  Once we got across the road though, she took off with us in tow on the end of those ropes.  A big sigh of relief was heard once the herd was reunited.

Moving the cows took all of 20 minutes, taking down electric fence and moving water troughs took several hours.

First load – one hundred gallon water troughs and mineral box.

Second load – three hundred gallon water trough.

After moving and filling water troughs and minerals it was time for a tear down on the fence, and a pasture walk.

The bad – my water trough area.

The kinda sorta bad – where I drove each day to deliver hay.  This is actually right next to the water trough damaged area.  4×4’s have their place compared to hooves.

The fix – I laid down some straw to help moderate the pounding rain we are supposed to get this weekend.  No, it’s not pristine, I have cattle, I have to take care of them.  You will always have an impact, the idea is to be mindful and try to mitigate your impact.

2 -4-15 Scathophaga stercoraria

The good – nice poop piles and some litter still left.  Winter feeding outside with bi-weekly moves still has a place in my grazing program.  The cows prefer to be outside, so we meet in the middle trying to balance the needs of the land, the cows and us, the caretakers.  It’s wicked easy to feed outside, inside not so much.  We now have 8 – 10 weeks of deep bedding to do before it will be time to turn the cows out on pasture.  Don’t let anyone kid you, deep bedding is a lot of work.

Third and final load – posts, fence reels long and short, 12volt battery, and energizer.  Done.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Elva permalink
    February 4, 2015 4:45 pm

    I am in upstate NY with a group of 24 head of cattle; 16 of my own and 8 that I am boarding for friends. I was wondering how many head of beef cattle you have. I have a barnyard area and always give the cattle the option of going in the 140 foot barn, which has a deep bedding pack. Believe me, the deep bedding pack is a real job here with 40 days straight of single-digit to below-zero weather. The manure turns into boulders that are hard to cover and turn into a comfortable bed for the cattle. During the entire month of January, I fed the cattle on the pasture, as the ground was rock solid, but now there is too much snow, which makes it too hard for the cattle to get to the feed and too hard to get the feed there, so now I am back to putting the baleage right outside the barn in their barnyard area. Do you ever get this kind of cold weather that makes the bedding pack a challenge like this? My other question regards your fencing. During our grazing season, which extends from about May 1st to October 31st, I move my cattle daily, with about a 30-35 day rest time. I use 3/8 fiberglass posts and polywire, which is on high-quality reels that I get from Premier. I was wondering why you do not like to use polywire or the fiberglass posts. I just push my posts in by hand, about every 30 foot or so, and they are very light and easy to use. Takes me about twenty minutes to put up the new fence, take down the previous back fence, and move the water tub. I use my border collie to encourage the cattle to move into the new section, as they are usually not very hungry so not super motivated, and she asks them to do this politely. Certainly not trying to say that my fencing is better, but just was curious. I do enjoy your blog very much!

    • February 4, 2015 5:06 pm

      Hi Elva,

      We keep about 20 head of mixed ages total, it waxes and wanes a bit as butchering takes place about the same time new calves are dropped. It rarely gets below 10F or 15F here and if it does it doesn’t last. I was just realizing that today we are about 80 degrees warmer than what a New York farm blog I read is experiencing tonight. She wrote her forecast was for -40F with wind chill. I couldn’t take that!

      When we started rotationally grazing we were impressed with Salatin’s no-waste rebar and re-purposed welding wire spools. We did not want to spend a lot on something we weren’t sure we would continue with. Over the years we have experimented with Intellirope from Premier, and other polywires, and I have to say those are long gone and have outlived their usefulness, and we still have the original rebar posts, and recycled fence spools. I never have wanted fiberglass posts after helping a friend with her splintered ones. I can alway use my rebar for something else, and at less than a dollar a pop, over the course of almost 20 years I would say they don’t owe me a penny. Nothing against Premier, I love the Poultry Net, ours is going on 16 years old and is still working, so I think it just a matter of what works for one farm may not work for the next one. The important thing is to move the cows, what product is of no matter. If my cows don’t move readily to the next paddock, I know I made the paddock too large, so I make the next one a little smaller. Do you have to make such a small span between posts because the polywire is too heavy? I pace of 20 to 25 steps depending on terrain.

      • Elva permalink
        February 4, 2015 6:29 pm


        I know what you mean about the splintered posts…they used to be like that, but no more. I actually buy my posts and polywire from Kencove, and the posts NEVER splinter anymore, as they have some kind of special coating. I have posts that are over fifteen years old, and no splinters on them. However my posts that are around twenty years old do splinter, so I use them on perimeter fences. I do not use rope, but use a medium grade polywire; not their best or cheapest. When I first started serious grazing in 1990, I used Maxi-shock from Premier, which was great, but heavy. Once I started with polywire, I just loved it. I like that both the posts and wire are white, as that really seems to help with nighttime visibility. My cattle are also of mixed ages, which is why I tend to err on the side of making their daily paddock a bit larger than necessary, as I don’t want the big ones pushing the littler ones into the fence. I probably make their daily paddock around an acre. I have been reading a bunch this winter about mob grazing (a friend gave me a huge pile of old Stockman Grass Farmers!) , which I have really never practiced. I know I could do this with my small herd by just making smaller paddocks, but although I like the idea of even manure dispersal, I am worried again about bullying and cattle just not having enough space to race around and have fun, which you know the calves like to do. I do only use one strand, so the calves do often duck under the wire just for fun, but I am still a little hesitant. I have read about where they are grazing at 70,000 to 100,000 pounds of cattle per acre! Even estimating high, I doubt I graze more than 16,000 pounds per acre. What do you think about this concept?
        Oh, to answer your question about my post spacing, I just put them about every thirty feet to be visible to deer. Probably I could get away with putting them sixty feet or more, but I have lots of posts, and I like my fence to be very visible. I also have a small flock of sheep, but I do not rotate them, and instead treat them like a small herd of deer, letting them do whatever they want to. They pretty much graze ahead of the cattle on the new grass, but they ignore the fence, which is fine by me, and go in the barn whenever they like. They mostly hang out in the cool barn in the daytime in the grazing season and just make quick forays out to graze until early evening. They are so much easier to keep clean and content on their deep bedding pack with their pellet-like manure!! To tell you the truth, sheep are just much, much easier than cattle! However, I do love grass-fed beef, and cattle in general.
        Also I really liked your post about jars. I was milking my dairy cow ( I now have two of those) into a steel container and then storing it in a beautiful half-gallon jar in the fridge. One day this fall, I guess just due to glass fatigue, my glass jar kind of exploded in the fridge! What a mess! Now I milk into a glass jar and store the milk in the steel container in the fridge. I do keep my cattle all together, and when I want to milk, I just walk up to my cow and milk! No halter, no grain, no hay. I just put my stool down and make a request for cooperation, which is usually granted! Right now, I just milk one front quarter and let a foster calf do the rest. My other cow is dry (She is my Jane cow, just like yours, but an Ayrshire). I let the calf stay loose all day with his foster mom, Shannon, and then I entice him into a box stall at night with a tub of third-cutting baleage .
        Thanks again for the great blog. We are only going to be a mere twenty below, not forty below!!

        • February 4, 2015 10:01 pm

          Sounds like you got it covered! LOL, I don’t want my fence to be visible, the animals know its there, and I like it to blend into the landscape.

          Thank heavens it’s only going to be -20 below!

  2. Sherrie permalink
    February 4, 2015 8:40 pm

    Hauling water:

    I always enjoy your posts – especially regarding rotational grazing. I’ve tried to get started, but water is a huge problem. I have two 150 gallon Rubbermaid troughs – similiar to the ones in your pics. My question is what do you use to fill them? I have a 275 gallon tote, but my husband says if it is full that it’s too heavy for our 1/2 ton pickup. Could you give a little more information on your posts sometime about hauling your water? I know you have in the past, and maybe I just haven’t paid close enough attention. You may have a heavier truck which helps.

    Thanks for sharing your posts, Sherrie Blake

    Date: Wed, 4 Feb 2015 23:28:17 +0000 To:

    • February 4, 2015 9:59 pm

      Sherrie, yep a 3/4 ton for sure. I use the same size tote but the truck has the suspension to handle it. Your hubby is probably right, besides suspension that’s a big load to stop with too.

  3. February 5, 2015 5:46 am

    Your pictures inspire me that Spring is actually on the way! I love the grass growing, and the cows look so happy!!

  4. Sherrie permalink
    February 6, 2015 8:48 am

    Thanks for the info.

    Sent from my iPhone



  1. WORLD ORGANIC NEWS | A Big Day – Cows In | Throwback at Trapper CreekWORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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