Cattle Moves Should Be Happy Time

Beefs and Beliefs

Canadian grazier showed me the difference between high-performance cattle and lower-performance cattle.

Published on: August 25, 2011

I am posting a quick update to last week’s blog because of my trip to visit grazier Neil Dennis in Saskatchewan, Canada. Neil has been building his land for three years now with ultra-high stock density grazing.

Specifically, that means he’s packing 1,025 stocker cattle into paddocks sometimes less than an acre and moving very rapidly, often 8 or more times a day.

I spent all day Sunday, plus Monday evening with him.

When we first went out to the cattle Sunday morning he told me the Brix, or sugar content, of the forage has dropped off in relation to the crude protein content and the cattle aren’t feeling as good. This had started only a couple days before, he said.

“See how they move,” Dennis  said. “They’re not running and bucking.”

We Brix tested his grass from midday to afternoon at index numbers running from 19-22. That’s high sugar content but apparently the protein ratio was out of proportion.

Adequate sugar content in the upper portion of the leaves is what makes cattle really gain.

To salve the situation Neil was supplying the cattle some straw hay with molasses and an oil to help boost energy in their diet and he believed it was helping. Certainly the calves were eating it.

Neil has an intern right now so he and I weren’t there for every move but I could see what he meant after watching just three such events. Some of the moves in the afternoon the cattle were rushing in happily, some even bucking a little, and then grazing madly. Other times they just moved into the next paddock and began grazing. These were significant behavioral differences.

As I left on Tuesday Dennis was beginning to leave the cattle in larger night-time paddocks with the straw until 10 a.m., hoping the Brix count on the forage would be rising more by mid-morning. I haven’t checked back with him to see how this is working but I will.

Watch this web page as I’ll be posting more stories and videos in the coming days about mob grazing and good forage management.