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Bale grazing.

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3words

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I've been thinking about giving this a try this year,and with all the extra hay around if they waste some it will do the ground i'm feeding on some good.Questions for you guys experienced in this.Can i just put a months worth of feed in 1 field,and let them have access to all of it?Or do i have to set the bales in rows and limit the amount of bales that have access to for a certain period,to limit waste?How is everyone doing it,and what works best for you?Thank you for any info.
 

Newborn

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3words said:
I've been thinking about giving this a try this year,and with all the extra hay around if they waste some it will do the ground i'm feeding on some good.Questions for you guys experienced in this.Can i just put a months worth of feed in 1 field,and let them have access to all of it?Or do i have to set the bales in rows and limit the amount of bales that have access to for a certain period,to limit waste?How is everyone doing it,and what works best for you?Thank you for any info.

Down this way, with hay in short supply, we cannot allow the cows to stomp it into the ground after they have eaten whatever it is they want. If your wanting to limit the waste, a bale ring would help and if you have the time, you could unroll it on the ground for a little more effficiency
 

RSL

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We are going to bale graze this year and it is due to math and risk management. We are actually working with AESB (PFRA) to do a long term research trial on nutrient movement, changes to the soil profile, etc. I will keep this site updated as we find out more.
I think the choice is Feed $/Fuel $ related. We feed a very short time here, usually around 30-45 days, but last winter we wound up feeding for 90 days. For us this is a huge risk as we basically rely on a 30 year old tractor (in good shape, but still) and we don't have a heated shop. If we can't start it in -45, or we lose a wheel, or blow a motor, or... we are in real trouble. There is a lot of wear and tear bouncing bales over frozen ground through 2 feet of snow. The other concern is cost of time labour and fuel to feed. We have one piece set out in bale grazing this year that is only 3/4 of a mile from the house and has 68 bales on it. We figured out if we had the truck stack the bales in the yard and took them out there every day we would put in excess of 100 miles on the tractor. and that is just a fraction of our feed. Chores go from 1-2 hours per day to 30 minutes per week. If it storms or a tractor won't start you can move fence with a saddle horse. The risk for us is way lower and the costs are less and there is no clean up bill for corrals (we will bale graze backgrounders too).
The math done by the ag department here a couple of years ago shows a $15 / bale fertilizer value (I think it would be higher now) that we will have out in our fields where it will do some good, so that changes the equation on wasted feed for us too.
When I am completely honest with myself it is very difficult to feed a cow around here for under $2 per day (fuel, depreciation, labour, feed) but with bale grazing I think I can drop nearly 80 cents off that. Swath grazing runs us around $0.50 so bale grazing is still a gap filler in our program.
You have to use fencing to limit access (same as swath or stockpile grazing) and if you do that your waste will go way down. I am convinced our waste on swath grazing that we fence is less than if we baled it. Without fence there will be a lot or waste and bales busted for no reason.
A special note: we do not have a deer or elk problem, and I expect that to come and change things for us quite dramatically in the future.
 

Northern Rancher

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I have enough paddocks so I can just set balesout in them without having to build fence in winter. We buy our feed and get it delivered right to the paddocks so don't have to handle feed twice. We use a leader/follower system the cows and calves go through first them the horses follow behind-right at breakup the horses will go back over it all and paw up anything missed I think the alfalfa leaves ferment a bit and they like them. If anybody would like to come see how our grass production has increased under it feel welcome. We also get oddly enough weed control you can see a definite line where the bale grazing has been. There is a definite peace of mind knowing that all you need to do is open a gate and your cows are fed for a couple of weeks. What waste there is is minimal and doesn't come close to equally fuel and depreciation on a feeding tractor. Other than pasture calving definately the most positive management change on our place in last twenty years-can't imagine not utilizing it.
 

3words

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Northern Rancher said:
I have enough paddocks so I can just set balesout in them without having to build fence in winter. We buy our feed and get it delivered right to the paddocks so don't have to handle feed twice. We use a leader/follower system the cows and calves go through first them the horses follow behind-right at breakup the horses will go back over it all and paw up anything missed I think the alfalfa leaves ferment a bit and they like them. If anybody would like to come see how our grass production has increased under it feel welcome. We also get oddly enough weed control you can see a definite line where the bale grazing has been. There is a definite peace of mind knowing that all you need to do is open a gate and your cows are fed for a couple of weeks. What waste there is is minimal and doesn't come close to equally fuel and depreciation on a feeding tractor. Other than pasture calving definately the most positive management change on our place in last twenty years-can't imagine not utilizing it.

Northern Rancher how many bales do you put in one field and let the cows have access to at one time?How far apart should i be placing these bales in the field?Thanks for answering this for me NR,your knowledge was what i was looking for when i posted this question on bale grazing.
 

starvin'dog

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Glad to see this thread.
Here's my plan, any constructive criticism from you old pro's is appreciated.
I'm not attentive enough to keep a good electric fence going in the winter so I'm thinking of placing bales on end and and removing the twine on a few days worth of feed at a time, thinking the cows will clean up the loose bales better. I'm sure I'll be replacing some eartags but if all the hay in each field is the same quality would this work?
 

Northern Rancher

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I put them about 40 feet apart I suppose and usually put two weeks worth in each paddock. I want to get a fairly thick build up of organic material. If you are hauling and have to plow snow it's more cost effective to plow in a big circle then to try and clear a large enough area to unload a semi and place bales. The beauty of it is it's not an exact science so you can learn as you go.
 

littlejoe

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Northern Rancher said:
I put them about 40 feet apart I suppose and usually put two weeks worth in each paddock. I want to get a fairly thick build up of organic material. If you are hauling and have to plow snow it's more cost effective to plow in a big circle then to try and clear a large enough area to unload a semi and place bales. The beauty of it is it's not an exact science so you can learn as you go.

Interesting. Is there any grazing in paddocks? How many pound a head a day does it avg out to? Many thanks.
 

Northern Rancher

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When we turn out into bale grazing it's usually when we have too much snow to graze out anymore or else I want to save some carryover till spring. It's easier to extend our grazing season by starting earlier in the spring rather than try and go to late into winter. Years ago Shauna and I took an HRM course and and they taught about succcession-basically the stages nature goes through when confronted with bare ground. We had a 30 acre paddock that we'd swath grazed so we decided to just leave it. It's been bale grazed from one end to the other-I'll put a put a picture up so you can see the sward of grass that is there now.

 

Angus 62

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Bale grazing definitely is more popular where the ground freezes solid for the winter and the economics of running equipment in below zero temperatures are painfully obvious. Waste will be greater in areas where mud is a common throughout the feeding season and stockpiling or swath grazing are likely some alternatives that are still cost affective and keep nutrients where they belong.
 

3words

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I have pure alfalfa,alfalfa bromegrass,or pure brome grass bales.Is there a certain kind of bale that will work better for bale grazing then other's?
 

RSL

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Just run a feed test on the different feeds and weigh a couple of bales. That will give you a good idea how many/much they need.
 

littlejoe

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3words said:
I have pure alfalfa,alfalfa bromegrass,or pure brome grass bales.Is there a certain kind of bale that will work better for bale grazing then other's?

I think the better the hay, the quicker it goes thru them. Using tubs and 'Free choicing' a few late calvers (not calved yet) on nice second cutting, about 45# a day would 'disappear'. Probably overfeeding protein by about 3X.

We now consider alfalfa 'protein supplement', use it as such on winter range---our cows will generally put on weight---quite a bit of condition, actually, on rough fescue, idaho fescue, etc--in jan/feb---if full fed 2nd cut alf every 3rd or 4th day---about 30 #. I like to see them eat, leave for water, then come back and clean it up. About 300# of alf a mo a cow ain't bad in mid winter.

When full feeding, i like a grass/alf mix. I think it slows down consumption, lets you get the goodies outa the alf and is better balanced for energy.

Took me yrs to figure out some of what works on a cow. Several yrs ago, I was short on hay and it was about $100. My neighbor sells thousands of tons and i whined to him. We made a deal on 'forgotten' stacks, leftover butts, stuff he'd been going to clean up for yrs. His guys delivered it for $15--20 a ton, so you can figger out how fancy it was. Some was nasty, i fed lots. Cows thrived.

Now our deal is to try to work with nature, calve later, take advantage of cows competitive advantage----which is to convert roughage not practical for our competition. We try to meet cow's requirements at lowest cost. And a dry, mid-gestation or even early third trimester cows protein requirements really aint all that hard to meet.

Was it me, I'd save the alf for 'protein supp'.
 

Angus 62

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Good post littlejoe. The problem with feeding a little alfalfa everyday is they will starve waiting to be fed. A couple of times a week keeps them out hustling.
 

Faster horses

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I don't agree with you, Angus62. The protein in the alfalfa stimulates
the rumen so they can digest the other poorer forage better.
Dry matter is a requirement of cattle and when they don't get it,
they eat anything and everything. So I've never seen cattle starve
waiting for alfalfa hay~unless they weren't getting enough alfalfa
and there was no other forage for them to eat.

We must remember we are not in the cattle feeding business,
we are in the RUMEN feeding business.

It's my opinion littlejoe is right on. We have producers around here
that used to buy cake that now use their alfalfa as protein supplement.
Straight alfalfa isn't the best as a single feed, because it does go right through the cattle, but it's a great supplement. We have a customer that
feeds 10# a day on winter pasture and those cows look and do
fantastic. He used to buy cake. Alfalfa hay at $100/ton is the
cheapest supplement you can buy. Yet there is a real resisitance
to paying $100 ton for hay, but producers will pay much more for
supplement out of a feed store.

We were just talking the other day, we sold hay in 1965 for $40 ton.
Hay here is bringing $65/ton. Hay is a darn good buy.
 

littlejoe

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Pretty much been proved--at least to me---that you can spike protein levels about every 3 rd day.

If I give them a 'full feed'---which to me is they fill up, go to water, and got a little left when they come back----Everybody gets full.

It's 12 miles one way, so every 3 rd day or so cuts expenses and disrupts grazing pattern less.

We're pretty much round bales and hydrabeds, but like to do any primo second cut alf small squares. Cut late, slow drying, usually baled with some moisture. You can sail flakes like frisbees, we pick on wolfy rough fescue patchs---they'll clean it up and you get more even grazing later yrs.

Where we winter repl calves, fringed sagewort is worst weed. This stuff hates hoof action late in the yr. Medium quality hay unrolled over wide area there.

It's amazing what hoof action and a little manure and wasted feed will do----sat on the tailgate with hand crank grass seeder one day and seeded about 1/2 mile of abandoned county road. Fed on it every day that was sloppy that spring. Better than the undisturbed range next to it now.
 

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