Every day with few exceptions I move my herd of cattle to new pasture. This mean that each day I setup a new fence, move the cattle water bowl (and clean it out if necessary), move the mineral feeder and move my herd into this new pasture area.
Many people wonder why I go to the trouble of moving my cattle daily. It’s a lot of work to move cattle each day rather than leave them in one larger area, but there are important reasons to take the time to move your herd each day.
Daily moves improve the quality of the pasture over time.
Good pasture requires grazing in order to be healthy, but if the animals are given constant access to the full pasture they will overgraze plants. This means that they will choose the most valuable plants and graze them repeatedly without letting the plants recover. Eventually these valuable plants die out and the pasture quality diminishes over time.
Moving cattle daily also improves the pasture quality by distributing the animal impact more evenly. Many people think that animal impact is negative. However, properly managed herds of animals are critical to improve pasture health. By moving animals daily manure is distributed more evenly providing a natural fertilizer to the pasture. Daily moves also help animals to trample uneaten, less desirable plants. This trampling of plant material into the soil helps to feed soil life improving overall soil and pasture health. Without daily moves cattle tend to favor certain spots which become overgrazed and over fertilized to the detriment of that area as well as the other areas of the pasture.
Daily moves improve the health of the animals.
Daily moves mimic the natural behavior of large grazing herds in the wild. One reason this leads to better health outcomes, is that the animals have a large diversity of plants to choose from when grazing as discussed above. Daily moves lead to increased species diversity in the pasture allowing animals to easily meet their nutrition needs.
Also important for the health of the animals, is the daily moving away from fly and parasite pressure. Because the herd is constantly moving away from it’s own manure, they end up moving away from flies that will hatch over the coming days. Parasite pressure is also dramatically reduced by moving the herd daily, as an animal will not return to an area that was previously grazed for quite some time. This breaks the parasitic cycle that happens when animals are able to continuously graze and manure one area. Nature has its own way of sanitizing and sterilizing a pasture through sunlight, rain and biological life if given enough time before re-grazing.
Because I move my cattle daily, it is easy to check in on my animals each day and make sure there are no health problems developing. This makes it more likely that animals will stay healthy than if the cattle are seen infrequently.
Daily moves keep animals calm.
Daily moves do require quite a bit of extra work each day. However, the additional work results in calm animals that are easier to work with.
An animal that sees the farmer each day becomes familiar and comfortable with being handled and moved each day. This familiar routine results in much calmer animals than those who are not used to daily moves. This makes loading animals for butcher easier, which in turn leads to more tender, tastier meat. It also make the farmer’s life much easier when cattle escape a fence as they are more cooperative when being moved back into the pasture.
Daily moves improve weight gains in the long run.
If there is one thing that will very quickly negatively impact the bottom line of a cattle operation, it is poor weight gains. Getting consistent and sustained weight gains results in more profitability, better meat quality and healthy animals.
Moving cattle daily leads to improved weight gain over the long run. It would be easy to obtain high short term weight gains by turning cattle out onto a large piece of land and not moving them. Cattle could select the plants that they most preferred leading to good initial weight gains. However, as pasture quality declines due to not moving cattle, weight gains will start to become poor. Parasite and pest pressure can quickly rise without daily moves causing a significant negative impact on weight gains.
Many of these problems with weight gains can be avoided by properly managing your herd and moving them frequently.
Daily moves improve the environment and wildlife habitat.
One of the biggest myths is that cattle are always damaging to the environment. When cattle are fed their natural diet of pasture and managed properly with daily moves, they are one of the most important tools for healing land, building soil, and restoring habitat for wildlife.
When cattle are allowed to roam over one entire area wildlife have no place to hide. In contrast, when cattle are moved daily there is always some area of the pasture with taller grass and other areas with shorter grass. This allows a wide variety of habitat for wildlife.
Moving cattle daily is a great way to mimic nature and provides many benefits to the environment, the animals, the farmer and the consumer of the finished product. These are some of the reasons why I take the extra time to move my animals each day. In the long run, it’s worth taking time to move your cattle daily!