For this article, I thought that I would share my thought processes with grazing over this summer, and where to from here for my steer trading operation near Murgon in south-east Queensland. Bottom line, up front (BLUF), I follow the RCS Regenerative Grazing Principles, because I want to be brilliant at the basics.
Our season break came two months early, arriving with good rain in the first half of October. From mid-October, I went straight to a 60-day rest period for our first lap around, calculating the length of my graze periods using the RCS Graze Period Calculator and the paddock rating method.
I was planning to weigh, draft and sell as soon as my daughter got home from boarding school in late November. Since I had matched stocking rate to carrying capacity during the non-growing season, I still had a reserve of dry grass in October. I replaced this sale mob before I sold, to utilise this grass and take advantage of the existing market conditions.
There was an odd light fall of rain that stopped and started the grass growing over that initial 60 days. The next significant rain was in mid-December. From here I again used the Graze Period Calculator, working on a 45 day rest period. (I noted in the margin of my Grazing Chart last summer that a 35 day rest period was too short for my legumes and to extend it out to 45 days next season).
Things were going well through Christmas and New Year. By mid-January the grass was starting to slow up, so I strategically added an extra day or two to certain paddocks to extend my rest period.
I did another weigh, and drafted cattle for sale in the end of January before my daughter went back to school. The cattle looked good and had an average daily gain that I was quite happy with.
By this point in time, there was still no rain so I put my rest period out to 60 days. Within a week, I decided that this was still too short, so using the Graze Period Calculator again I’ve extended my rest out to 90 days. This takes care of the second grazing principle, though this will need to be continually monitored, ground-truthed in the paddock and adjusted as needed.
With no rain in January, my Grazing Chart showed that stocking rate shot up above my benchmark carrying capacity. Looking forward, even if I get average rainfall, I have a big total to take off my rolling rainfall the end of the month, which will push my SDH/100mm even higher. So to follow the third principle I need to reduce my number of LSUs significantly.
Knowing the number of cattle and LSUs that I would normally (or planned) to run through the non-growing season, I’ve worked out the amount of feed I need to accumulate in SDHs. Comparing what I have in the paddock now and still need to accumulate, I’ve looked at my sales plan and adjusted it (sell and not replace) over the next six months to match stocking rate to carrying capacity and adjusted my budgets accordingly. If we do get significant rain in the next six weeks, the plan is still to sell (and not replace), as it takes a long time to bring the stocking rate in SDH/100mm back to the benchmark carrying capacity.
All of this planning and monitoring is worthless unless I act and on what I’ve worked out i.e. sell to destock. If I don’t, then I will be in a world of hurt through the next nine months until my Green Day. This is the reason that Plan, Monitor and Manage is the first principle.
Rainfall I can’t control. However, I can have my paddocks in a condition that they will respond quickly to any rain that does fall. This is one of the challenges of operating in the industry and location that I choose.
A couple of points from the fourth grazing principle that I can also control:
- Having the best stock water I can, in the cleanest troughs that I can, with a flow rate into the trough faster than the mob can drink.
- Keeping the free choice mineral trailer with the mob and topping up as needed. This summer I’ve noticed significantly more intake of most minerals. I’m not sure if this is a seasonal influence or if I’ve just been more disciplined in keeping it in front of the cattle this summer.
- Keeping an eye on manure as to what phase the pasture is in and an indication of when to start feeding McCosker Brew. At the moment its beautiful phase two poo which means that the grass basically has run out of moisture and is suspended in phase two.
- Keeping an eye on ticks and buffalo flies and acting as needed.
Overall I keep going back to the RCS Regenerative Grazing Principles, as I have confidence in them and the experience of the many professional grazing managers in the RCS network, who helped develop and continually challenge, refine and prove these principles work. Together we care for millions of hectares across the country and overseas, run hundreds of thousands head of livestock, and have been doing this for many decades. By continuing to follow the RCS Regenerative Grazing Principles, we will continue to produce food and fibre forever.
If it’s been a while or you want to clarify or improve your grazing management, it is definitely worth booking in to do a school. No matter how many times I’ve done a school or sit in for sections, I still come home with a list of points that I can improve. Check here for up-coming Grazing for Profit and Farming and Grazing for Profit schools or Grazing Clinics in your area.
Enjoy what you choose to do and be brilliant at the basics.
Andrew Zerner is a grass farmer and beef cattle producer from Murgon, QLD. Andrew enjoys sharing his knowledge and learning from others in his role as RCS Next Steps Coach, Advisor and Facilitator.