I now have the "goods" on the calves and the forage production and harvest from my "mob" grazing project.
I don't have an accurate weight for the calves on arrival so I had to use the out-weight when the left home and the out-weight when the left my place and calculate the shrink on the trip up here.
The calves weighed in at home near Paris, Texas, at 692 average pounds and they weighed 713 average leaving my pasture. That's 21 pounds per head over just under 20 days, pay weight to pay weight, or just over one pound per day.
However, considering the truck ride from there to here is at least 5.5 hours, best possible time, that's a fair amount of shrink I put back on them that didn't get accounted.
From a pay standpoint, considering my situation with small amount of pasture, that is not objectionable. However, I think it's fair to give myself credit for the weight gained back. In that vein, here are my best estimates:
It's at least fair to say they lost 1% of body weight per hour for the first three hours (possibly the first four hours). But we'll conservatively say 3 hours and 3% -- and counting. The next 2.5 hours I used the rule of thumb that each hour costs another quarter-pound of weight. So that would be about another 6/10 pound, at the least.
Therefore, my conservative tally of the first three hours and the next 2.5 hours of trucking would be a loss of at least 3.1% of total body weight.
That means the minimum average loss should have been 21.4 pounds per head from the out-weight in northeast Texas.
Therefore, if I add that to the almost 21 pounds I was able to measure from the Texas weight to my weights at the end of the graze period, I put at least 42 pounds per head on the calves from the time they stepped off the truck until we loaded them back up at midmorning and drove to the scale in town.
That means I put about 2 pounds per day on them.
I'm pretty happy with that, and I'll also note 40 pounds is more in line with what I thought I was seeing as the cattle put on flesh.
But here's another important point.
A primary purpose of ultra-high stock density is to improve the forage and the land. I also used it to maximize forage utilization per pound of standing forage but I tried to keep that in balance with allowing the calves to perform.
Here's what I happened in forage production and consumption.
As of Nov. 14 the North Central region of Oklahoma where I live has only 17.4 inches of rainfall, or 55% of normal -- 4th driest on record.
I did not actually measure the forage but only estimated it ahead of time.
My gain numbers above show me I produced 200 pounds of beef per acre from land that's old farm ground, some with good fescue and bermudagrass and some in very poor condition with as much weedy, woody plant species as anything else.
Overall, that 200 pound figure in a very dry year implies to me I might get nearly double, but not quite, in a normal rainfall year.
In that vein, I might expect to get 350 pounds or a little more of beef per acre in a normal year under the same management system.
That's important to know because if I'm going to track production of "mob" grazing on this particular piece of land I need a benchmark. I did not keep records last year so this year must be my baseline.
However, I consider it might be better to divide the 200 pounds per acre by 17 inches of rainfall over the entire growing season and say I produced 11.5 pounds of beef per acre per inch of rainfall.
Next week I'll try a walk-around, perhaps in video format, to show you what happened on the ground and another reason I'm excited about ultra-high stock density grazing.
In the meantime, here's a picture of the calves bunched up and grazing at about 500,000 pounds stock density in a temporary paddock at my place. They are using about half the paddock in this photo.
Here's a picture of cattle moving into a new paddock on Neil Dennis's farm in Saskatchewan this summer at 800,000 pounds stock density. This is only the front portion of the 1,000-head herd moving into the paddock but it gives a good idea how many animals are moving into a small area.
I'll be posting more mob graing material from Neil Dennis and from Rodger Savory in coming weeks and will be featuring some of their work in the hay and forage issue of Beef Producer magazine this spring.