Stockmen interested in mob grazing should find a mentor who’s already doing it. Mark Brownlee, a Missouri mob grazing follower, says the best way to navigate a minefield is to follow someone who has done it successfully.

“You’ll find plenty of people who failed. I want to follow the ones who blazed the trail and made it work,” he says.

Start small, particularly in arid environments where native pastures are fragile, then expand gradually. “Take 10% of your ranch – put a fence or water source on your most productive ground – and do it properly,” Chad Peterson, north central Nebraska, advises.

Many western ranches have irrigated meadows and native pastures – mountains or high desert. “Put cattle on some irrigated land and do a good job of intensive grazing, using other pastures as needed. You’ll see a big response from the small amount you did right. This gets you farther than doing a large amount halfway. The first couple years, I mob-grazed only 400 of 9,000 acres, then added 200 more. Those 600 acres changed my whole ranch. It took pressure off the rest, providing longer recovery. It all became healthier and produced better,” he explains.

Traditionally, irrigated acres are cut for hay, while hillsides and mountain pastures are grazed during growing season. Peterson started doing the opposite – mob grazing green meadows and using the hills for winter grazing when grasses on fragile soils are dormant. He divided the meadows into long strips, and further divided them with temporary electric fence into paddocks of less than an acre, moving cattle five or more times daily. He grazes each small piece once during the growing season and gives it a year to recover.

“Many ranchers move cows in large groups but not often enough. I’d rather see them push the envelope harder on a small piece. The 10% they set up and mob graze would pay back immediately. Then they could add another 10%,” he says.

Mob Effect On Health

Gary Wofford, a southeast Colorado rancher, credits healthier cattle to mob grazing. “Healthier plants have nearly eliminated my cattle’s consumption of minerals. The fly burden is almost gone. Horn flies breed in fresh cow manure, and hatch a new generation two weeks later. By then, my cattle are a mile away. Flies die without a cow to feed on.”

Mob grazing also reduces internal parasites, he says. The life cycle is broken by the long recovery period, because if cattle aren’t constantly eating where they defecate, they won’t pick up worms, he says. Worm larvae move onto nearby foliage but if plants aren’t eaten short, cattle won’t ingest worms.

 

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