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There's things I haven't seen too, and I've made a bigger circle than most. I'm not entirely sure how cattle determine what to eat and what to avoid. There are actually quite a few plants which cattle not only used to eat, but that ranchers depended on for winter feed, which they avoid now. I think part of it is the amount of supplements we purchase, and part of it is stockmanship.

It struck me as ludicrous when I first heard of Kathy Voth training cattle to eat weeds. Not
Yeah, Id have to agree that times have changed... but I've never fed thistle or cockleburs or for that matter, supplements. I've seen a lot of those weeds standing tall in fields after the grass is grazed to the ground though. Not saying it can't be done... but I'd rather have weed free fields.
 
"Graze" thistle or cockleburs???

Maybe we use those terms differently or something, but I've never seen thistle or cockleburs be grazed... ever. I suppose it might happen if a desperate cow is enclosed on dirt for two or three weeks with some of those weeds in the enclosure, but as long as there is any suggestion of grass they will ignore those particular weeds.
I thought it was ludicrous when Kathy Voth started holding schools to teach cattle to eat weeds. Not because I thought cattle wouldn't eat them, but because cattle in my care were always eating weeds and brushes they supposedly wouldn't eat.

I've had schools in 8 states, plus multiple schools in Mexico and Australia, and like clockwork, on the third day they start eating many of the plants they have always avoided. Thistles and cockleburrs are but two of the plants they will hammer on IF the timing is right. Cockleburrs are toxic in the two leaf and boot stages. In between they actually have more nutrition than the grasses.
 
I thought it was ludicrous when Kathy Voth started holding schools to teach cattle to eat weeds. Not because I thought cattle wouldn't eat them, but because cattle in my care were always eating weeds and brushes they supposedly wouldn't eat.

I've had schools in 8 states, plus multiple schools in Mexico and Australia, and like clockwork, on the third day they start eating many of the plants they have always avoided. Thistles and cockleburrs are but two of the plants they will hammer on IF the timing is right. Cockleburrs are toxic in the two leaf and boot stages. In between they actually have more nutrition than the grasses.
I've seen the ground in your video and I can believe cattle on that type of land will eat things at the point of starvation.
 
Yeah, Id have to agree that times have changed... but I've never fed thistle or cockleburs or for that matter, supplements. I've seen a lot of those weeds standing tall in fields after the grass is grazed to the ground though. Not saying it can't be done... but I'd rather have weed free fields.
Weeds are just part of the plant succession which indicates what the soil fertility is. Work on the soil fertility (which is biological, not chemical) and the weed "problem" will take care of itself. Treat the symptoms chemically and you will always be dependant on the chemical.
 
All in context @Bob Kinford. The rules are designed as a 'starting point' for someone that is just getting into rotational grazing. If you start throwing everything you are suggesting at the new producer or producer just starting to rotational graze, their eyes will glaze over and they won't comprehend a thing you have said. The rules are designed for the 'tame' sod forming (relatively, as tall fescue is arguably debatable, but it's included here). Specifically, the rules were initially designed for the Cool Season Grasses typically found in the Ohio Valley, with tall fescue, timothy, orchardgrass, Kentucky bluegrass and bromes in mind. The rules have been 'tested' against the Warm Season Grasses (tame sod formers) throughout the Southeast through Texas. The grasses in mind here are Bahia, Bermuda, and St. Augustine. Arguably there are others. To your point, no two species, or varieties for that matter, of grasses have the same growth and response patterns. The "Never Fail Rules of Grazing" are designed to be applied at a pasture level, not a species or variety level. Why don't you try telling a user on this forum that they have to graze all 5 of the different species of grass that grow together in their pastures and see what kind of a response you get from them? @Formal stated that they have Bermuda as a primary grass species, they BELIEVE its coastal. The 4 rules apply here. That said, the rules are not meant for all pastures. In other words, don't try to apply them, as written, to bluebunch wheatgrass in Wyoming. Please? They aren't meant and never were intended for that.

There are exceptions to the 4 rules. You need to find the original article and review it.
They could graze all five kinds of grass, but they would have to adjust the timing of their rotations to be making a pass when each grass is at it's peak nutritional/palatability. A "rule" in grazing arid and semi arid places like Wyoming or Mexico is that you make one pass and give the pasture a year to recover. Of course that rule was made up on the theory that bison would not come back to that area, while ignoring the fact that deer, elk, and antelope would cross the same area at different times, eating something different each pass. A student in Montana put that theory to test by giving half the ranch off during the growing season, and going grazing the other half three times during the growing season. They actually stockpiled grass as the cattle were eating something different each pass.

This website is from a friend and student of mine in Mexico (who is also the grazing consultant for Understanding Ag.) An hour and a half north of Chihuahua City, Mexico, his ranch was almost in identical condition to the one in my video. Oddly enough, he actually has coastal Bermuda which has been staying healthy in a drought which has been killing cactus and mesquite. Rather than following "grazing rules," he follows soil health principles.
 
I have leased a bull the last couple of years from a guy up the road 8 miles from me. He usually has quite a few breeds to choose from and charges me $150 per month, 3 month minimum. I tell him what breed I want, he pens them and I pick him up. When the bull is done, I just drop him off in the same catch pen I picked him up in. Great deal for me. I just bought a polled Hereford bull calve that should be ready by February. Might not be leasing a bull anymore. I bought a 4 year old horned Hereford as well. I've gone from no bulls to 2 bulls in the past 3 weeks.
What does it cost on lease on the bull usually run?
 
I lease a bull to some neighbors. They pay $20/head for 60-days. They have 25 or so cows, so $500 to get them bred, plus the bull is off my feed bill for those two months.
 
Weeds are just part of the plant succession which indicates what the soil fertility is. Work on the soil fertility (which is biological, not chemical) and the weed "problem" will take care of itself. Treat the symptoms chemically and you will always be dependant on the chemical.
In the words of Jim Garrish, "It depends".
 
They could graze all five kinds of grass, but they would have to adjust the timing of their rotations to be making a pass when each grass is at it's peak nutritional/palatability. A "rule" in grazing arid and semi arid places like Wyoming or Mexico is that you make one pass and give the pasture a year to recover. Of course that rule was made up on the theory that bison would not come back to that area, while ignoring the fact that deer, elk, and antelope would cross the same area at different times, eating something different each pass. A student in Montana put that theory to test by giving half the ranch off during the growing season, and going grazing the other half three times during the growing season. They actually stockpiled grass as the cattle were eating something different each pass.

This website is from a friend and student of mine in Mexico (who is also the grazing consultant for Understanding Ag.) An hour and a half north of Chihuahua City, Mexico, his ranch was almost in identical condition to the one in my video. Oddly enough, he actually has coastal Bermuda which has been staying healthy in a drought which has been killing cactus and mesquite. Rather than following "grazing rules," he follows soil health principles.
As I said, in context. San Antonio is about all the further west I would apply the 4 never fail rules, and then with caution but am confident they could be applied. Also look at the exceptions. If the gras isn't growing, you can't graze it. The rules are designed primarily for areas that have rainfall throughout the year at some level and not desert regions. Hence the reference to context. Haven't heard of Bermuda that is growing in a desert environment, but it apparently is here. Its interesting that a sod forming grass is a component of importance in a desert ecosystem such as Chihuahua City, Mexico. The rules are designed for pastures that are actively growing for the majority of the year, not areas that are actively growing for 4 months or less out of the year or less. The rules aren't meant for desert areas. San Antonio is close, but not there. Chihuahua City, Mexico, is desert. The Bermuda in the desert is interesting, although it is growing around a cow pie in the picture shown in the article in an area devoid of established sod. Not my vision of a healthy Bermuda grass stand and I don't know if there is a stand of Bermuda grass sod here. I'm wondering if its there because it has sprouted from the cow pie it is surrounding due to the cow eating hay hauled in from another area? That is the case of me finding tall fescue in the low country in South Carolina. The fescue will not persist. Is the Bermuda going to? I'm familiar with and have designed grazing systems in the arid west where the rotation, in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem, needs to include 18 months of deferment, which is more than the year you are talking about. That, and the systems I think you are referring to, are brittle, arid, environments with a defined 'rainy' season. The 4 never fail rules are designed for a more humid region where precipitation can be expected throughout much, if not most or all, of the year and a growing season that coincides.
 
They could graze all five kinds of grass, but they would have to adjust the timing of their rotations to be making a pass when each grass is at it's peak nutritional/palatability. A "rule" in grazing arid and semi arid places like Wyoming or Mexico is that you make one pass and give the pasture a year to recover. Of course that rule was made up on the theory that bison would not come back to that area, while ignoring the fact that deer, elk, and antelope would cross the same area at different times, eating something different each pass. A student in Montana put that theory to test by giving half the ranch off during the growing season, and going grazing the other half three times during the growing season. They actually stockpiled grass as the cattle were eating something different each pass.

This website is from a friend and student of mine in Mexico (who is also the grazing consultant for Understanding Ag.) An hour and a half north of Chihuahua City, Mexico, his ranch was almost in identical condition to the one in my video. Oddly enough, he actually has coastal Bermuda which has been staying healthy in a drought which has been killing cactus and mesquite. Rather than following "grazing rules," he follows soil health principles.
I know you can't believe everything you read on the web, but this is consistent with my understanding of Bermuda grass:

  1. Bermuda Grass:
In summary, Bermuda grass can grow in the Chihuahuan Desert if provided adequate water, but it's not a natural part of the ecosystem. Native grasses remain crucial for maintaining ecological balance

I wouldn't be overly surprised if Bermuda 'survived' a year or two or possibly even 3. Long term persistence I don't see in the cards, not under natural conditions anyway except for maybe very localized and small areas. If you are irrigating, that is a whole different story. I've seen lush pastures of Kentucky bluegrass in the Snake River Valley as well. Your student appears to own a large ranch, or at least covers a large operation of several thousand acres. Is he growing and irrigating Bermuda for hay? Also, this is your student's ranch and he seems focused on promoting a natural ecosystem, so why would he promote Bermuda, other for hay production and supplemental feeding?

Add to this that Formal only has 30 acres of land to work with. Your student appears to have some extent of rangeland to work with. They have completely different constraints. Reference back to me saying "in context".
 
I know you can't believe everything you read on the web, but this is consistent with my understanding of Bermuda grass:

  1. Bermuda Grass:
In summary, Bermuda grass can grow in the Chihuahuan Desert if provided adequate water, but it's not a natural part of the ecosystem. Native grasses remain crucial for maintaining ecological balance

I wouldn't be overly surprised if Bermuda 'survived' a year or two or possibly even 3. Long term persistence I don't see in the cards, not under natural conditions anyway except for maybe very localized and small areas. If you are irrigating, that is a whole different story. I've seen lush pastures of Kentucky bluegrass in the Snake River Valley as well. Your student appears to own a large ranch, or at least covers a large operation of several thousand acres. Is he growing and irrigating Bermuda for hay? Also, this is your student's ranch and he seems focused on promoting a natural ecosystem, so why would he promote Bermuda, other for hay production and supplemental feeding?

Add to this that Formal only has 30 acres of land to work with. Your student appears to have some extent of rangeland to work with. They have completely different constraints. Reference back to me saying "in context".
He isn't promoting Bermuda, it's just what is in the seed bank (and he doesn't grow or feed hay.) It's dominant, but there's also a couple of dozen other grasses. He's also been in a drought so severe, that its been killing cactus and mesquite. Less than 5" maximum for the last four years. He's destocked to 75% which amounts to 35 acres per cow in an area where most stock at 180 - 200 acres per cow, even when feeding and weaning early.
 
As I said, in context. San Antonio is about all the further west I would apply the 4 never fail rules, and then with caution but am confident they could be applied. Also look at the exceptions. If the gras isn't growing, you can't graze it. The rules are designed primarily for areas that have rainfall throughout the year at some level and not desert regions. Hence the reference to context. Haven't heard of Bermuda that is growing in a desert environment, but it apparently is here. Its interesting that a sod forming grass is a component of importance in a desert ecosystem such as Chihuahua City, Mexico. The rules are designed for pastures that are actively growing for the majority of the year, not areas that are actively growing for 4 months or less out of the year or less. The rules aren't meant for desert areas. San Antonio is close, but not there. Chihuahua City, Mexico, is desert. The Bermuda in the desert is interesting, although it is growing around a cow pie in the picture shown in the article in an area devoid of established sod. Not my vision of a healthy Bermuda grass stand and I don't know if there is a stand of Bermuda grass sod here. I'm wondering if its there because it has sprouted from the cow pie it is surrounding due to the cow eating hay hauled in from another area? That is the case of me finding tall fescue in the low country in South Carolina. The fescue will not persist. Is the Bermuda going to? I'm familiar with and have designed grazing systems in the arid west where the rotation, in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem, needs to include 18 months of deferment, which is more than the year you are talking about. That, and the systems I think you are referring to, are brittle, arid, environments with a defined 'rainy' season. The 4 never fail rules are designed for a more humid region where precipitation can be expected throughout much, if not most or all, of the year and a growing season that coincides.
The pictures of the grass starting in the cow pies are areas he's still improving. The point I'm trying to make is that the "rules" are over generalized. The "rule" in desert country is giving 12 -18 months recovery time, yet grasses like Bermuda, Tabosa, and Alkali and Giant Sacaton may need to be grazed two or three times a year.

Another odd thing is our description of grasses. Tabosa and alkali sacaton are both described as bunch grasses. However when those grasses are regenerated, they are both sod grasses. Turning into the bunch grass we are accustomed to seeing, is apparently a defensive mechanism on the part of the plants which we can't see until the plants have been regenerated.
 
The pictures of the grass starting in the cow pies are areas he's still improving. The point I'm trying to make is that the "rules" are over generalized. The "rule" in desert country is giving 12 -18 months recovery time, yet grasses like Bermuda, Tabosa, and Alkali and Giant Sacaton may need to be grazed two or three times a year.

Another odd thing is our description of grasses. Tabosa and alkali sacaton are both described as bunch grasses. However when those grasses are regenerated, they are both sod grasses. Turning into the bunch grass we are accustomed to seeing, is apparently a defensive mechanism on the part of the plants which we can't see until the plants have been regenerated.
I did get to thinking about Alkali sacaton as well as Distichlis spicata as sod formers. In terms of plants switching back and forth between sod and bunch, tall fescue also has that characteristic.

Taking the rules in context is what needs to be done. I agree completely that the 4 rules don't work, nor do they belong, in a desert environment. The rules are generalized and are designed as a place to start. Many/most of the producers (it has gotten better) don't have much of an idea, if any, what rotational grazing actually is or even means. For the region of the country that I typically work in now (historically its a bit different) these rules serve as a baseline for the establishment of a rotational grazing system. If I get pasture owners to follow this system long term once it is established and then continue to refine their system, that is a perfect world. If I get them to adopt and use the system long term, I consider it a success. All too often I have livestock producers coming to me for a 'free handout' of money for a single fence or water trough. I have 2-3 times the success rate of long term adoption of systems I work with producers on than most of my colleges. Unfortunately, my success rate for long term adoption of any type of rotational system after I've helped them set something up is around 30%. In a nutshell, even these generalized guidelines become too complex for many to adhere to long term.
 
I did get to thinking about Alkali sacaton as well as Distichlis spicata as sod formers. In terms of plants switching back and forth between sod and bunch, tall fescue also has that characteristic.

Taking the rules in context is what needs to be done. I agree completely that the 4 rules don't work, nor do they belong, in a desert environment. The rules are generalized and are designed as a place to start. Many/most of the producers (it has gotten better) don't have much of an idea, if any, what rotational grazing actually is or even means. For the region of the country that I typically work in now (historically its a bit different) these rules serve as a baseline for the establishment of a rotational grazing system. If I get pasture owners to follow this system long term once it is established and then continue to refine their system, that is a perfect world. If I get them to adopt and use the system long term, I consider it a success. All too often I have livestock producers coming to me for a 'free handout' of money for a single fence or water trough. I have 2-3 times the success rate of long term adoption of systems I work with producers on than most of my colleges. Unfortunately, my success rate for long term adoption of any type of rotational system after I've helped them set something up is around 30%. In a nutshell, even these generalized guidelines become too complex for many to adhere to long term
I love the interest in regenerative grazing, but think we've swung the pendulum of simplification too far in the wrong direction. Allan Savory predicted as much when I discussed it with him back in 2009. It seems like everyone and their pet monkey who attended a grazing seminar and were successful on their 20 acre ranch is now an expert and giving advice. There's universities giving advice when they think that simple rotational grazing is the same as actual regenerative grazing when it's basically short term set stock grazing. It just takes a little longer to fail.

Personally I'd like to see it renamed and defined.
Biologically Correct Grazing- Planned grazing taking into consideration soil biology, plant biology (including plant succession) and animal performance.
I did get to thinking about Alkali sacaton as well as Distichlis spicata as sod formers. In terms of plants switching back and forth between sod and bunch, tall fescue also has that characteristic.

Taking the rules in context is what needs to be done. I agree completely that the 4 rules don't work, nor do they belong, in a desert environment. The rules are generalized and are designed as a place to start. Many/most of the producers (it has gotten better) don't have much of an idea, if any, what rotational grazing actually is or even means. For the region of the country that I typically work in now (historically its a bit different) these rules serve as a baseline for the establishment of a rotational grazing system. If I get pasture owners to follow this system long term once it is established and then continue to refine their system, that is a perfect world. If I get them to adopt and use the system long term, I consider it a success. All too often I have livestock producers coming to me for a 'free handout' of money for a single fence or water trough. I have 2-3 times the success rate of long term adoption of systems I work with producers on than most of my colleges. Unfortunately, my success rate for long term adoption of any type of rotational system after I've helped them set something up is around 30%. In a nutshell, even these generalized guidelines become too complex for many to adhere to long term.
I think that we've over generalized and tried to simplify it into a system. Universities are perhaps the worst as some of them still don't recognize the difference between regenerative grazing and rotational grazing which all too often is simply short term set stock grazing. It is surprising the number of universities and grazing groups out there which don't even recognize plant succession. It doesn't help that there is no actual definition of regenerative grazing.

I'd like to see it renamed to
Biologically Correct Grazing- Planned grazing with the flexibility to change with conditions to benefit soil biology, plant diversity (which recognizes plant succession) and animal performance.
 

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