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I have a few small fields I am rotating my cows and goats on. The fields are all recently recovered brushland and as such are very weedy. There is probably half or more weeds and less than half grass. And the weeds grow a lot faster than the grass. The cows and goats pick around many of the weeds and if I let them go the weeds will be huge shortly. I want to knock the weeds back but I also need enough forage for my animals. I was wondering if there was a rule of thumb to use untill my pastures get established. Like maybe mow whenever the weeds get up to knee high, or something like that.
Thanks.
 

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Mow high just before the weeds start to form seed pods; never mow a pasture when mowing will take more than 50% of the benifical grasses height - the natural chemicals cannot rebalance immediantly if it is mowed too low. The roots will have to die off to regain chemical balance between grass blades and roots if mowed too low.
 

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agmantoo
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If you are anxious to establish a good pasture and are not opposed to herbicides you need to do a bit of research on Crossbow, Remedy and Grazon.
 

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Part of the benefit of rotational grazing is that you force the animals to eat the weeds. If you can, smaller paddocks and/or a higher stocking rate might help in this regard. This has worked for me on some types of weeds, but not others. When I bought this place there was a good 1/4 acre patch of nothing but thistles and plenty of them in other places. They are all gone...

I still have plenty of multi-flora roses....:( I hit them with crossbow when I get the chance and keep mowing.

I usually mow as soon as I take the animals out of the paddock. At least this time of year I do. The grass is still growing quite fast. I take them out, mow and then let it rest. As the growth slows, I might not mow at all.

Taking care of your pastures is sort of an art. You just have to look, learn and kind of get a feel for what you need to do for them.

Jena
 
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I like making smaller paddocks with step-in posts and poly wire. My cows have been eating everything but the tall wirey bunch grasses. I will mow to level off the paddocks as high as my pull behind mower can go. It is the most fun mowing that I do in that I can play along almost at idle speed. Very relaxing.

One four-acre paddock has been grazed to step-in the pasture mix seeds that were broadcast. It is now resting,but I will clip it off this weekend if it is not raining to take off the multi-floral rose bushes that are getting ahead of me.

After I mow, I will go in and spot spray the rose bushes with a Gordon's product in a two-gallon sprayer. I am a private pilot so I like to call this low level pasture strafing. My primary targets are the rose bushes, and Canada Thistles.(Are they the ones that get big and tall with the beautiful flowers....if you let them?)

I never walk out into the pasture without a cutting tool or the sprayer. When I had to do it as a kid, I promised myself that I would never do this stuff when I grew up. Now I do it for fun. Go figure!

Bret in N IN
 

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cows will eat thistles if forced to with smaller paddocks? I didn't know that, this pasture is just full of them and my dad was saying we need to spray for them. They are the kind you get tagged for if you don't, canadian thistle. Bret, the canadian right now in indiana have that yellow growth on top or so I've been told.

Mel-
 

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those of you who do splits your pastures into paddocks, what size are you using? or what size would you use for two 16 month old angus?

TIA,

Mel-

oh and this pasture has a drainage tile creek that runs through it but if the paddocks all had one side along the fence that the drive runs along it would be easy to bring water to them.
 

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The cows won't eat the thistle when it's mature, but if you get them on it early in the growing season, they will munch them down to nothing.

My rotation calls for 30 adult cows per acre per day. I try for a three day rotation, so I put my 45 cows on 4.5 acre paddocks for 3 days. Some of my paddocks are bigger, so I let them eat those longer. You have to watch the grass though...it is all an art.

Jena
 

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My recommendation would be to rotationally graze via bushhog. Divide the field up into segments which make sense. Then bushhog in roughly the same order perhaps a couple of days apart between fields. Objective should be to keep the weeds from seeding, even at the sacrafice of the good forages. Supplement livestock with hay as needed. In the spring consider having your local farmers' co-op broadcast fertilizer with seed mixed in with it. Also have a soil test done to determine what you are starting with. On calcium, go by base saturation, rather than the soil samples recommendation (which is two tons per acre about 99% of the time it seems). You want to try to work up to 80% base saturation for calcium.

Ken S. in WC TN
 
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one of the things I read about rotational grazing on the web said to let them eat it down to 1-2 inches and then rest it until it was 6-8 inches. Does that sound about right?

Sounds like for these two cows 1/3 of an acre every three days might be a place to start and see.

These thistle are probably way too big then since they are over two feet tall already so will have to look into spraying. My dad did get his thing working that cuts hay, not a bush hog but whatever else you call it (sorry for my lack of terminology. hay bine maybe?) so maybe we should try to cut the thistle and see if they'll keep it down if forced to. Thanks,

Mel-
 
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ken,

did you mean bush hog with the livestock on it or bush hog it and keep livestock off of it until it's back up to the 6-8 inch height. what height to re-grow to do you recommend?

Mel-
 

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agmantoo
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Unregistered, 1 to 2 inches is too low IMHO. You need to leave enough blade, 3 inches plus, that the grass can grow based on its ability from the remaining portion to support itself and not to have the grass to pull its reserves from the root of the plant. I think to rid yourself of the thistle and the multiflora you will have to revert to spraying since it has already grown to where the root is too established. Jena is most correct in that it is an art to rotational grazing. I have not mastered it fully but I do use it fully to my advantage. I have been far more profitable with my cattle since converting to rotational grazing. My neighbors with cattle are starting to ask for assistance with their converting to this method of feeding. It is a fantastic tool.
 

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If you are trying to convert weedy pastures to mostly forages without herbicides then what the cattle can consume is almost a secondary consideration. There is no hard or set rule on height - just keep the weeds from seeding out. It is an eyeball type thing. If you can move your livestock through a system of paddocks, then you might bushhog after they are moved to the next paddock.

At the moment my summer grazing area is producing far more forage than my cattle can consume. Therefore they have access to everything and are allow to just eat what they want, where they want. Later this summer when grass growth slows down I'll start running them through a series of four paddocks.

See if your library can borrow a copy of Intensive Grazing Management by Burt Smith, Pingsun Leung and George Love. It covers the nuts and bolts of intensive grazing.

By the way, just cutting your lawn is a form of the same type of management. I have read cutting the lawn when it gets say 5-6" high all summer produces about seven times more growth then if you just let it grow rank. Reason is the purpose of most forages is to produce seeds. If you keep clipping them before they can seed out, they try again, and again and again. If you let them seed out, their job is basically done for the year so they go semi-dormant.

Ken S. in WC TN
 

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Unregistered said:
I like making smaller paddocks with step-in posts and poly wire. My cows have been eating everything but the tall wirey bunch grasses. I will mow to level off the paddocks as high as my pull behind mower can go. It is the most fun mowing that I do in that I can play along almost at idle speed. Very relaxing.

One four-acre paddock has been grazed to step-in the pasture mix seeds that were broadcast. It is now resting,but I will clip it off this weekend if it is not raining to take off the multi-floral rose bushes that are getting ahead of me.

After I mow, I will go in and spot spray the rose bushes with a Gordon's product in a two-gallon sprayer. I am a private pilot so I like to call this low level pasture strafing. My primary targets are the rose bushes, and Canada Thistles.(Are they the ones that get big and tall with the beautiful flowers....if you let them?)

I never walk out into the pasture without a cutting tool or the sprayer. When I had to do it as a kid, I promised myself that I would never do this stuff when I grew up. Now I do it for fun. Go figure!

Bret in N IN
if you have enough animals they will graze it down, just dont butcher for a year or two and they will do it for you
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for all the help, you have given me the answers I needed.
I currently don't have enough cows to keep up with the spring growth. And if I did have enough then I would have to buy a lot of hay this winter.
I now have a plan that I believe will work. I will probably be able to rotational graze a bit less than half of my pastures for now and bushog the rest to keep the weeds in check. After the grass slows the cows will be grazed on bigger and bigger plots, whatever they can keep up with. After the grass reaches 8 inches or so I will let them graze it down to about 4 inches(average). Then I will bushog for weeds if necessary.Then the chickens come in.
 

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Mike in Ohio said:
Just curious Jena, how long do you rest a paddock between rotations?

Mike
Usually 30 days. I have a total of 12 paddocks, but a couple of them are mostly wooded. I only run the cows in there a day or two a couple times a year to clean it up.

Some of my paddocks are too big, in my opinion, but I haven't had the time to put up more fence since I got chickens.

Jena
 

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I also agree that 1-2 inches is too short. I take them off when it's 4-6 inches and let it grow to 10-12.

Jena
 

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Spent a good part of today bushhogging pastures. Fescue had grown knee to waist high and was seeding out. I tried to keep the bushhog over the level of the white clover. While I took off most of the 'dry' matter (stems), I left probably 80-90% of the tender forages.

Ken S. in WC TN
 

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agmantoo
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Frank your statement "After the grass slows the cows will be grazed on bigger and bigger plots" is a common mistake than people starting into rotational grazing make. You are wanting to improve the pasture and when you do the above the cattle will selectively eat the best grasses to the point of harming them and leave the less desireable trash to grow unchecked. You need to "rest" the best grass and to mechanically cull the trash. Continue to rotate regularly and on schedule. :)
 
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