Here is one of our cows, Laser, grazing fresh grass yesterday. I was actually sitting on the mineral feeding, enjoying the morning and typing up yesterday’s blog post when she grazed right up next to me. I spent a few minutes watching her graze and talking to her (she doesn’t talk back, I’m not that crazy yet). I completely forgot I was holding a phone/camera and finally filmed just the last few seconds of her grazing closely. She was about 1 foot from me and munching merrily. It’s amazing what being quiet and calm around the cows does for their disposition.
Notice how when she eats she clips the top 1/3 to 1/2 of the grass stalks. This isn’t by accident or all that she can reach. With enough grass to eat in the paddock, this is all that the cows will eat, just the tops. This leaves the bottom 2/3 to 1/2 of the grass to regrow meaning that the grass bounces back like nothing happened and will be much taller and lusher the next time the cows come by. Also, the root system of the grass sheds some of its root system with this grazing which does all kinds of great things for the soil, but that’s another post. The grass and the roots regrow starting the next day as the cows move off of this paddock and onto the next one. This is what moving the cows every day is all about. If I left the cows on this paddock they would eat the grass right to the ground which is what happens with conventional grazing.
This is our second year of intensive grazing so it’s going to be interesting to see how the grass responds to spring coming into it with a much healthier root system and soil conditions. We built quite a bit of organic matter last year, and we’ve fed lots of hay and vegetables all winter which have added even more organic matter to the soil. We have another few weeks to let the fescue jump up and get mature, then we’ll be back to grazing and trampling for the rest of the season trying to build organic matter with the cows.