Bale Grazing: A Laymen’s Approach
Caitlyn here. As the winter season approaches everyone’s starting (or has been for some time) to bring out the hay bales for our furry beasts. We don’t have the biggest herd known to man- by far- with 30 head. But they do a really good job of polishing off our bales in no time. And they also do a really good job of mucking up our barnyard. Plus come spring we have to dig all that manure and bedding out. It wouldn’t be so bad, if we had a manure spreader, but we don’t. They seem to be rare gold in these parts.
Being grazers, for us it’s all about our fields, even in the winter. And seeing all that fertilizer (manure) in our barnyard and not on our field, seems a crime.
So what did we do about it?
We started bale grazing. And by this I mean we roll out our bales in the field and the cows get to eat the hay out in the pasture. They’re on our fields spreading their own manure, they’re healthier and cleaner, and what they don’t eat becomes organic material for the fields when the snow melts. For this I am so grateful we live on the side of a hill. Gravity finally works in our favor.
We have one pasture that is especially defiant in our attempts to grow great grass. It’s just full of vines, wild berry plants, and a whole-lotta nothing in the grass department. So right now we are concentrating all our bale grazing there.
How does this help?
1. We are concentrating the manure.
2. They are walking all over the pasture breaking up the vines and nasty plants.
3. We are using their wastage of the bales to put even more organic material back onto the land.
What is organic material?
Organic Material: is matter composed of organic compounds that has come from the remains of once-living organisms such as plants and animals and their waste products in the environment. (1)
While I could make this super scientific, I will leave that to our other contributors. 😉 For me, I like to just look around me. We have some really good examples of how well this works in our fields. When we bought the place, half our land was a hay field, with some round bales left sitting in the field. We eventually moved them out of the field, but they had been there for a year before we even bought the place, so a lot of the bottom of the bale rotted into the ground. This was about 2 years ago. Now you can walk out into the fields and see where they all sat, because there are circular areas with bright green grass (even in November) surrounded by brown, dead grass. All that rotted bale remains, broke down to make amazing organic material for the grass to thrive in.
That is what we want for our fields. Lots of organic matter to make rich, lush grass. Which feeds our cattle well and for a longer time. Which decreases the not-as-nutritious or yummy hay needed (and decreases our expenses). Resulting in really great beef that people can afford.
So there you have it. A simple explanation of bale grazing.