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Mob Grazing: Is It for You?

Mob grazing is a “new” grazing technique that has been slowly sweeping Wisconsin and the upper Midwest for the last decade. This technique attempts to simulate historical grazing patterns conducted by native herbivores using domesticated livestock.

While mob grazing is similar to rotational grazing, producers who implement this practice typically graze taller and more mature forage with more animals per unit area, using faster paddock moves, and allowing a longer rest period after grazing events.  Graziers use mob grazing for a variety of reasons including weed control, even distribution of manure, pasture resilience, decreased animal selectivity and even to improve soil health.  While there may be benefits, there are also concerns about potential negative impacts.

While practitioners of mob grazing are sold on the technique, others are not.  To take a closer look at what mob grazing really is and how it’s being used on the landscape, a series of videos has been created by the University of Wisconsin Extension with support from Hay & Forage Grower magazine, the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), the Ceres Trust, and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). This series, titled “In Their Own Words” uses farmer interviews to define mob grazing, discuss benefits and risks, and give some suggestions on how to implement this practice. Producers featured in the video have utilized mob grazing in some form as part of their pasture- and herd-management strategy, and are excited to share their successes as well as their failures.

“As this can be a controversial and often misunderstood practice, we wanted to let the producers who have used mob grazing speak for themselves” says Anders Gurda, Associate Researcher, and producer of the videos. “Surveys have shown, again and again, that farmers learn best from each other, and one of our goals as researchers is to facilitate these educational conversations.” Gurda travelled to farms in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to speak with dairy, beef, and diversified livestock producers, all of whom have adopted, and adapted, mob grazing to suit their own operations. Their stories will help viewers understand why, how, and when to use mob grazing.

These four videos can be found by using the links below:

  1. Intro and definition of Mob grazing
  2. Mob grazing benefits
  3. Disadvantages of Mob grazing
  4. How to implement Mob grazing

ARS Research: No Harm to Soils When Cattle Graze Cover Crops

USDA-ARS researchers working in the southeast report on outcomes of a 7 year study on potential benefits and impacts of grazing cover crops with cattle in the most February 2015 issue of Agricultural Research. Researchers were interested in whether opportunities to include cover crops for grazing would increase overall use of cover crops on southeastern USA farms.

Beef Quality Assurance Training and Pasture Walk in Waushara County on September 4th

UW-Extension Waushara County invites beef producers to a Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Training and Pasture Walk on September 4 at the Ken Williams farm located at N3345 Swamp Rd, Wautoma. Sandy Stuttgen, DVM, UW-Extension Quality Assurance certified trainer will provide BQA instruction from 9 AM until 12 Noon. Those attending the BQA training will be eligible to obtain BQA Certification from the Wisconsin Beef Council. Certification cost $15. Beef producers face the challenge of making a living from the land, while producing safe, wholesome food. To meet that challenge, the industry’s BQA program was created to assist beef producers with best management practices for raising, feeding and harvesting high quality beef. The fee for BQA certification will be collected separately at the conclusion of the training.

A chute side BQA review and pasture walk led by Ken Williams, UW-Extension Agriculture Agent Waushara County will follow from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. The farm was purchased in 2007; fences and waterlines have been installed which allows managed intensive grazing on 70 acres. The farm is currently supporting 22 Angus cow/calf pairs with cattle moved daily to fresh paddocks. A cattle handling building, including headlocks, tub, chute and headgate was built in 2013.

During the walk we will discuss how to turn fields, some on unimproved hilly ground, into sustainable pastures. These fields have had lime and remedial fertilizer applied as well as some frost seeding with clover. Trial plots planted in 2012 and 2013 with eight different grass species will be reviewed and we’ll discuss weather impacts on their establishment. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Rest facilities will be located on-site. This grazing program is funded and supported in part by a 2011 Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, University of Wisconsin –Extension and the Natural Resource and Conservation Service.

For more information and to pre-register, contact the Waushara County Extension Office: 920-787-0416, or send an email to Ken Williams, Waushara County Agriculture Agent: ken.williams@ces.uwex.edu.

Livestock Forage Disaster Program: Contact Your FSA Office

The 2014 Farm Bill makes the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) a permanent program and retroactive to October 1, 2011.  The LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire. USDA Farm Services Agency has released a new fact sheet on the Livestock Forage Disaster Program to explain basic eligibility for the program. Producers can determine whether they live in an eligible county at the USDA Farm Services Agency website. The national Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska has also developed an online LFP eligibility tool to assist producers in determining whether they are eligible for the program. Producers are encouraged to contact their local Wisconsin USDA Farm Services Agency office for additional information.

USDA Ag Marketing Service Adds Monthly National Grass Fed Beef Market Report

In September, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service initiated a monthly national grass fed beef market report. The report is housed in the USDA Market News for Beef section under the ‘monthly’ reports listing. This is the first report of its kind, filling a significant data gap for the industry and increasing transparency in the marketplace.

For almost a century, USDA Market News has provided farmers, ranchers and businesses with market and pricing information.   With the new market report and better access to information, USDA is helping farmers and ranchers who are considering converting to grass fed operations and those who are already producing grass fed beef.

The first monthly grass fed report was issued on Monday, September 23, 2013.  In addition to market commentary, the new report includes three sections: prices paid for live cattle, wholesale beef prices, and direct-market beef prices. This monthly report brings market clarity and exposure to assist the grass fed industry in marketing their products.  In the future, as the number of market reporting participants grows, USDA will continue to expand the report by including trade volume data, and adding graphs and other visuals. Source: USDA news blog