Decade Of Ecological Restoration Series – Episode 5 – Rotational Grazing (Cows) – Joey Ruigrok
Author Wren McLean
Joey co-manages a 10 acre property with his ex-partner, neither of them are farmers rather artists with an ideological approach to sustainability, creativity, art and culture.
“I discovered that our neighbours small herd of 7 cows had completely depleted the grass in her 4 acre paddock in winter and there was nothing for the cows to eat”. Their neighbour has the cows as lawn mowers not income and, as Joey has large area overgrown with setaria grass it was only logical to have the cows do the work rather than slashing it twice a year.
“So I went to a few seminars about rotational cell grazing and it sounded amazing”. The principle is to have cows in a small (2-3 acre) paddock for a short period of time and then rotate them onto the next one giving each paddock around 40 days rest depending on the growing season. The soil diversity improves through moderated fertilisation from manure and urine and through the addition of organic matter (carbon) from the grass roots that sloth off when the upper plant is grazed, all this boosts the microbial activity and improves the soil.
‘I then realised there were another 3 neighbours with fenced overgrown paddocks who are also not farmers. All the paddocks are very close and there is one crossroad at the end of the road where all the paddocks come together so rotating the cows is not hard. Each owner pays for their own fencing and gates and helps move them around.
“We are still really at the beginning of this and at the moment we are still dragging troughs from field to field, learning about the winter/summer rotation, the size of the herd and the practicality of the fences, gates and water.
With 5 neighbours and a herd of 9 adult and 4 new calves on a combined area of 15 acres everyone is enthusiastic about the principle. As neighbours we meet more often and talk about practical things and this is a social benefit.
There is a combination of hard and electric fencing which will short if the setaria grass touches it so they are going to try controlling it with a biodegradable herbicide. “ I am very interested in trying to seed other grass species to increase diversity diversity and also feeding the cows seaweed which reduces the amount of methane gas from their manure”.