In "Part I" of this series of feature articles in the Carwood Farm Monthly Newsletter, I shared how we manage the breeding phase of our herd on the farm. I have to thank the many readers of that articles. If you recall, I landed on writing about this subject based on my lovely wife, Kelly's, suggestion. More readers opened, read and responded to the article than any article I'd ever written. This made her very happy!
So, once the breeder phase is complete, we wean calves and move them into a separate herd we call the feeder herd. The cattle spend approximately 10-12 months with this herd. During the grazing season, they spend their time on a rotational grazing system eating grass and dry hay as needed to provide fiber because sometimes the grass can over saturate their systems with nutrients and fiber is needed to balance out their digestive systems. The pasture consists of multiple species of fescue grasses that prosper at different points in the season along with clover for protein. Ideally I'm able to rotate them on a 30 day cycle meaning they are released on each section every 30 days. After 30 days of un-grazed growth the grass is at it's peak nutrition, so the cattle are always eating the highest quality grass, closely mimicking the natural migratory grazing patterns of ruminant animals.
In the winter, when grass is not growing, we feed this herd "high moisture" hay. This is a relatively new hay option provided by advances in agricultural technology in the past 10-15 years. Before this technology we could only bail hay as "dry" at 9-18% moisture. Any higher moisture level and the hay would spoil while in storage, or worse, catch fire. We bail high moisture hay at 35-45% moisture and store it in an air tight wrap that prevents spoilage. When it is removed from the wrap in the winter, it retains much more nutrients than dry hay. For the cattle, it's like summer grazing in January! This hay allows them to maintain good health and add weight even during the harsh conditions of winter.
Next month, I'll write about phase three of the process. That's when things really get interesting!