too much grass

0611190729Another question we received this week:
Hi, Shawn and Beth,
My two cows and I are not keeping up with the growth, and the intensive grazing ain’t working too well. I know it’s my fault, because I’m having to use extended paddocks a lot due to too much time away. 
The cows are back to about 1/3 way across fields. The fields they are entering into are easily my waist high (editor’s note:  Marcus is 6’5″). The fields they have left behind are becoming overrun with the junk they refuse to eat. I probably need at least 3-4 more critters to make the process work. 
Your thoughts: Should I (1) brush hog the fields they’ve already grazed, down to <6” to cut back junk and hopefully give good grass a chance to grow, and (2) brush hog the fields ahead to >1’ high to cut off the less nutritious tops of both good and bad?

Thanks. Hope all’s going well for y’all!
Marcus. 

0611190730dHi, Marcus!  Yes, with all the rain we’ve had the grass (and weeds) are just going mad.  We’ve got grass so thick that walking on it feels like walking on a mattress.  I’m making long, narrow paddocks and aiming for as much trampling as grazing — when the cows are done it looks like they just laid the grass over and rolled it down, or, where there are briars, those are just islands of tall stuff on a green carpet of trampled forage.  It’s all good; lots of organic matter, and it will keep the ground shaded until new grass grows.  In the paddocks that were grazed a couple of weeks ago, there is already a green mist of new growth coming through the trampled forage. In the meantime, Shawn is clipping high (as high as the brush hog will go — 8″ at least) on the paddocks where there is much that didn’t get trampled, and all the places where the briars need a nip in the bud.  But there is no need to clip ahead of the cows — they’ll shove in and get what they want, even if the weeds are taller than the grass and clover.  Actually, I find they graze ‘weeds’ just as happily as they graze the timothy and clover.  Bindweed is a favorite; also milkweed, hemp dogbane, and lots of other ‘non-forage’ species.  I think of a weedy pasture as a balanced diet;  those sown pastures that are supposed to be ideal may make animals grow fatter faster, but the cows don’t prefer them and I think the cows know what they are about.

Best of luck!  s/b

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