bale grazing versus unrolling

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uplandnut

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There has been a lot of discussion on here about both methods. I see the bale grazing argument being used for great regrowth on wore out ground, then you watch other videos that say that bale unrolling is the way to get the best regrowth. Just kind of curious if this is more of a case by case situation preference than actually proven that one is better than the other. I do understand the baled grazing argument for less tractor time in the winter. What I question is if it takes longer to get the same regrowth that unrolling gets, due to the grass having to get through a thicker thatch of let over hay?
 

Rydero

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I do both and I don't feel one is better than the other they're just different.

I started by bale grazing and it works quite well. What I find tends to happen is there's a dead spot right where the bale was for one summer then by the summer after it's better than everything around it. I like the extra residue because it absorbs water. It's a little disappointing how the goodness doesn't extent very far from where each individual bale was. We also went into 2 years of drought and those dead spots have not gone away. Not enough moisture to rot down the residue.

Rolling out spreads it around - more area covered/less concentrated benefits. No dead spots. I estimate less hay waste with my frozen ground climate because they basically lick it clean. Another benefit is more even access to the best hay amongst the herd.

I can't put a winter's worth of feed and move fence because of wildlife but I put a week's supply out in a few locations and move the cattle every 2-3 days which I feel is the magic number where waste increases. The tractor is out there every week so I don't find a huge difference in feeding time rolling out vs just placing them. I can bring the bales faster than my wife and kids can cut the strings and I can still keep up rolling them out. About 1.5 hrs a week feeding 80ish cows * edit* - timed myself. including taking the tractor a few miles to where the cattle are. I've soil tested and the areas I've bale grazed/rolled hay out on are the best ground on the farm by far.
 
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bird dog

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You also have to consider the amount and type of seed in your hay. For instance, if you just want some grazing on marginal soil, rolling out some Johnson grass hay will get you some the following summer. Bale grazing will also do this just in a small area. Another thing to consider is the quality of the hay. Unrolling good barn kept hay like I do does not add a lot to the soil because they do such a good job cleaning it up where with bale grazing, you are going to have more waste regardless of the quality but more nutrients added to the soil.

Neither one is a magic bullet that is instantly going to improve your soil. If you concentrate your effort on a small area, results will happen much quicker than just randomly unrolling or setting out rolls.

Ideally you could do both as Rydero said. Unroll your best hay when you need to get the most out of your investment but bale graze the junk thats been stored outside for a couple years.
 

bigbluegrass

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I do both and agree with both comments above. In terms of soil impact, bale grazing is going to put more pressure on a smaller area. Unrolling is lighter pressure on a larger area. There is a place for both.

I unroll hay without starting a tractor also, so the savings of not starting the tractor isn't exclusive to bale grazing. I set the bales on the top of the hill in the fall, spaced a few feet apart. All I have to do is cut the strings and I can push them down the hill. I can't always control how they go down the hill, but they will go down! I will run a single strand of electric fence over the unrolled bale to keep the cows from walking on it.
 

ClinchValley86

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I unroll most of our hay. Lot depends on the weather. If they are giving rain I set whole bales out. Enough for a couple days.

I like how all animals can eat when the bale is unrolled. I also like how it seeds the ground.

Ive used unrolling to put a big dent in our broomsedge covered hillsides.

No matter what, I plan on wasting hay when I feed. I am feeding life above and below ground.

It kills me to see animals fed in one place all winter.
 

bigbluegrass

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We had a lot of rain recently and I changed my unrolling method. I now put two strands of electric fence over the unrolled hay, one down each side. Saves the cows from stepping it into the mud. So far so good.
 

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