Lets Talk Dirt!
I would like to answer a few questions that have come up about why we bother moving our animals to fresh grass every day.
Below I have answered a few of the most common ones and try to explain a little more about the reason why and what we hope to accomplish by doing so.
Why do you rotate your animals every day?
The basis to a healthy animal starts with what is under their feet, even deeper than the grass. It is the soil in which the grass is grown. Soil health is a complicated thing, and I will not pretend to have it all figured out. We continue to learn more and more about it every day and work hard not only learning but putting what we learn into practice. This means a lot of hours moving fence to replicate what it would be like if there were no fences, and the animals were free to migrate across the country as the bison once did. This is particularly important for the soil health because it prevents the animals from over grazing plants.
What is the problem with over grazing?
A plants roots underground is a replica of their leaves and stems above ground. So, when a plant is overgrazed and never allowed to recover the roots wither away, this withers away the plant. This is bad because the roots are important to feed the life in the soil that in turn makes for healthier plants that make for healthier animals.
Why won’t the animal simply leave that plant to recover?
When given the choice between the nice tender leaves of fresh growth and the slightly tougher texture of older grass, animals go for the tender stuff. I cannot say I blame them, personally I do prefer a nice tender Dry Aged Ribeye over a tough chewy ribeye.
How long does it take you to move the animals every day?
This depends on a few things. If we must move the water trough and solar pump it can take us a couple hours. The very fastest it can be is 30-45 min. The longest days are when we must trailer the cattle to our place 4 mile up the road. That can take 4-5 hours. I would estimate 1.5 hours a day is dedicated to moving the cows. Just the cows. The horses are a whole different subject! The chickens are around 20-30 min total a day because we move them 2x a day. The pigs are 1x a week and take 2-3 hours because we must move their feeder, waterer, and huts.
If you did not move your animals everyday how much time would you spend on daily chores?
This is different for every operation but when I was growing up with our herd of longhorns (breed known for low maintenance) we would gather and work the cattle 1-2x a year. In the winter we had to feed a lot but, in the summer, we did not have to do anything with them. Now for the chickens if we were simply feeding and watering them it would maybe take 10 min a day. The same for the pigs I would estimate
Why in the world do you spend so much time moving the animals?
Honestly, I have asked myself this question as well. The best answer I have come up with besides working to improve our soil and animal health. Is that we are still learning, and in the learning process we make mistakes. So right now, we have very little to none permanent cross fencing. This is a time suck because instead of simply being able to set up 1 quick fence or even easier, open a gate. Every day we must build complete paddocks. Hopefully once we know exactly how we want to rotate though the pastures we will add a few cross fences and our daily moving time can be reduced drastically.
This is just a brief run through of how and why we are working on improving out soil. It is certainly not the easiest way to take care of a ranch. It means we cannot go away for a few days whenever we would like. If we do get to get away for a few days, it takes many days of extra work to get ready for someone else to do our chores. Currently, we have not figured out how to get away just yet, but I have hopes of doing so one day!
If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them below!