Mob grazing cattle is a practise that is recommended to farmers across the globe. This technique allows farmers to effectively manage pastures thus improving focus so that livestock dietary needs are met leading to high productivity. Mob grazing cattle is a simple practise of keeping large numbers of cattle on a small area of land and frequently moving them to the next piece of land. The land is therefore provided with ample time to rest before the animals are allowed to graze again. Mob grazing is a more intense form of rotational grazing. It is characterised by ultra-high stocking densities hence its recommendation to small, medium and large agricultural enterprises. Although the practise of mob grazing cattle is easy, there is need to have knowledge on various aspects of the process so as to achieve success.
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Layout and Design of the System
The farming land should be designed in a manner that allows for efficient management of both the livestock and pasture. The land should be divided into a number of paddocks that allow for pasture drought reserves to be spread over most of the area so as to reduce the risk of wildfires. The design and layout of the grazing area is influenced by a number of factors. These include weather patterns, which land needs to be trampled on, the breed or wean season, market demands, time livestock production cycles and the pasture rest cycle time. According to research, the planning system must address landscape characteristics, the carrying capacity of the land as well as the available forage. When designing a mob grazing system, it is advisable for farmers to have an aerial photo of the land showing the available forage and buildings as well as water sources. This will allow for appropriate division of the land. Water sources should also be kept near the paddocks to minimise movements within the pastures. Note that there is no blueprint available for layout and design; however, it is possible to make errors hence the need for temporary fencing systems.
Shape of the Paddock
Farmers can opt for any shape provided it is of appropriate size and correctly fenced to keep livestock within allocated grazing areas. That being said, an important factor to take into account when designing paddocks for mob grazing cattle is that square shapes allow cows to attain their daily feed rations with minimum grazing time and effort. Square paddocks also allow for even grazing through the land. Farmers are however free to select any paddock shape, provide it meets their objectives. In addition, water should be availed to cattle at all times. According to various research studies, water should be situated 800 feet way from the grazing area. Cows generally drink a lot water. At peak lactation high yielders can drink up to 90 litres a day. Most mob grazing cattle facilities make use of underground water systems. The upside of using this type of water system is that it does not freeze even in extremely cold weather conditions therefore animals are provided with water throughout all four seasons.
Some farmers prefer electrical fencing which prove effective in keeping livestock within the paddock. Temporary fencing systems are better than permanent ones as the land can be adjusted according to various seasons and animal dietary needs. The grazing lands can be adjusted during the grazing season to allow for drought reserves for months ahead when the growing season starts late. There are various temporary fencing systems that can be used by farmers. The most common are polywire types usually with 6 to 9 strands braided together. This type of fence is relatively cheap and is easier to repair. It can be strung for longer runs in comparison to polytape without a voltage drop. However, polytape has the visibility advantage for cattle and humans. Whatever the type of fencing used, farmers should make sure that it is able to effectively serve its purpose. Poor fencing systems may fail to keep animals within the paddock therefore negatively impacting on the success of the entire procedure.
Number of Paddocks
Mob grazing cattle calls for suitable sized paddocks that can accommodate the available number of livestock. Determining the size of the paddock is a common challenge among farmer. This is because mathematical calculations are usually used. Some farmersopt for 10 paddocks whereas others prefer at least 12 paddocks going up. Note that although this is the standard, the total number of paddocks in mob grazing cattle systems are usually they high. It is recommended to calculate the appropriate paddock size for the available area of land so as to reach higher productivity. According to research, a good estimate of paddock size in acres is made by multiplying the pounds of pasture dry matter eaten per head per day with the number of head in the herd, times the days on the paddock, divided by the pounds of grazable forage dry matter available per acre. In equation form this is:
Paddock size acres = (DM/head/day x head x days) x DM/acre
This is the total number of livestock per acre on a grazing area. Systems for mob grazing cattle are generally characterised by high stocking densities. Nonetheless, farmers should be aware that the number of cows in mob grazing systems relies on the objective as well as the available resources. Differences in type of soils and forages, terrain, herd size and weight also impact the number of cattle per unit area. The rule of thumb is often used to determine the number of livestock per grazing area. This is because it is fairly easy and requires less mathematical calculations. It is also based on practical situations instead of theory hence its preference. The rule of thumb states that livestock in mob grazing cattle systems can range from 250 to 500 per acre, depending on the type of forage available. While this seems like a lot of animals on a limited space, keep in mind that the forage is of high quality and cows are constantly on the move hence are able to meet their daily dietary requirements.
Similar to all rotational grazing methods, movement of livestock is of the essence when mob grazing cattle. Keeping livestock in a single unit area for prolonged periods of time can have detrimental effects on the land. Poor quality forage has low nutrient value and so supplementary feeds are required to meet animal dietary needs which costs farmers a lot of money. For this reason, they must be aware of the appropriate time to move animals to as to maintain the quality of the forage. In mob grazing cattle systems, stocking density is very high and so animals should not be allowed to graze on a single unit area for prolonged periods of time. Livestock are packed into the paddock daily. They are allowed to graze on the paddock for a day then moved to the next paddock on the next day. The paddocks are left to recover for about 50 to 100 days before the herd can graze again on the same paddock.
They system of mob grazing cattle works well under proper planning of the grazing land and the amount of herd to keep in that pasture. Several factors such as the weather patterns, which land needs to be trampled on, the breed or wean season, market demands, time livestock production cycles and the pasture rest cycle time are helpful in the planning process for this system. The planning process for this method also needs to address the type of landscape being created, if the technique will be used for cropland soil, the carrying capacity of the land, how much forage the land will supply, how long the herd will spend in each paddock and where to concentrate livestock mostly to maintain healthy grassland, reduce weedy vegetation and prevent soil erosion.