Bale Grazing

Bale grazing has been around for 30 years or so. We did our first bale grazing in 1988 & have continued to use it every year since. Bale grazing was not my idea. I don’t remember who I learned it from but it was a holistic manager.
The theory behind bale grazing is really two fold. The first point is that our animals are a tool to improve the land. To improve the land they must be on the land year round. The second point is that the manure & urine are very valuable when placed in the right place at the right cost (the cow has to do it).

Let’s compare bale grazing & conventional feeding.
Conventional

1. The bales are hauled into the yard in the fall.

2. The bales are fed daily using equipment, fuel & labor.

3. The manure accumulates in the corral. In some cases it is allowed to accumulate for years. In this case the value of the manure is lost. If the corrals are cleaned equipment, fuel & labor are required. These costs detract from the value of the manure.

4. The urine is lost. It is interesting to note that the nutrients in the urine are twice as concentrated as the nutrients in the manure.

Bale Grazing

1. Producers who bale their own feed can leave the bales in the field. This basically results in a yardage cost of zero.
2. Producers who buy their feed may be able to unload the bales where they will be grazed. The yardage cost here is just the cost of unloading the bales.
3. Some producers may have to unload the bales in the yard & then move the bales to the bale grazing site. This would result in the highest yardage cost in bale grazing.
4. All of the manure & urine are deposited on the land. The result is an increase in the fertility of the land & an increase in grass production the following year.
5. The residual feed left on the land creates litter & improves the land. This is a deposit in the biological bank account & will pay compound interest for many years to come. Please note that I referred to residual feed not waste. There is no waste in nature. Nature cycles everything. The residual must be cash flowed but it is not waste.

There are situations where bale grazing will not work. Don’t let this discourage you. Be creative. Ask how can I reduce costs while getting the manure & urine on the land?

A common question about bale grazing is: How often do I need to move my animals to fresh feed? I don’t think there is a “correct” answer to this question. Each person will find their own best answer. When we started bale grazing we moved our animals every three days. Over time we increased the days to 5, 10, 15 & finally to moving once a month. Each time we increased the days between moves we were more satisfied with the results.
Bale grazing is a powerful tool to improve the land. It can also reduce the cost of feeding the feed. If you have never bale grazed I invite you to consider bale grazing. I think you will be pleased with the results.

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