Regenerative grazing

Bale Grazing

It didn’t take the cows long to finish the pasture in the side field. Spring is here, but a lot of the grass is still short in most places, fine for our micro flock of sheep but not for cows. So this weekend seemed like the perfect time to try out bale grazing in one of our poorer fields.

Bale grazing basically means allowing animals in a field to eat directly from the bale of hay or haylage. Sometimes you can unroll the bale, or just dump it on the ground. The idea is that the animals will eat some of the bale and spread and trample the rest around where it will eventually rot down, improving the organic content of the soil. In the meantime the scattered haylage provides a nice mulch for the grass seeds that hopefully you remembered to sprinkle over your field beforehand!

The field we selected for the experiment was once part of a coal mine. The underlying geology of the coal outcrops means that areas of heavy clay sit next to shaley sections, you can see the evidence on the surface with the differences in vegetation.

We selected a relatively small area which we marked out with an electric fence. It is a low lying part of the field and the heavy clay means drainage is poor. What little grass is there is very short, stunted after months of the soil being effectively waterlogged.

We tried unrolling the first bale, but we weren’t able to spread it out as far as we would have hoped. Subsequent bales have just been unwrapped and left in the enclosure. The cattle seemed to enjoy the intact bales more, pushing and rubbing against them and flinging clumps of haylage about with their curved horns.

They have made quite an impact only in a short time, and we’ll see the improvement in later years.

Regenerative grazing

Spring Grazing

The Shetlands are finally out to grass. The wet Welsh winters and our heavy clay soil means that, although some Shetlands live happily outside all year round, we prefer to keep our cattle inside over winter. They are still pasture fed, preserved in the form of a haylage crop taken from our hay fields in the summer. It was beginning to feel like a very long winter but suddenly, miraculously, we had a few days of warm sun and it was finally time to let the cows out again.

In late afternoon we ran the cattle out from the barn, down the lane and into a small field near the house. Thankfully, although obviously very excited to be outside again they remembered the drill. They quickly settled down to their first taste of fresh green pasture in more than 5 months.

For our small herd (8 head) a 1/3 ha field was too large for effective grazing so we split the field in half with an electric fence. After 36 hours they were moved into the second half of the field.