At Pipers Farm we are proud of our sustainable farming practices, one of which has just started in earnest, mob grazing our Ruby Red Devon herd.
After taking shelter from the harsh winter weather, our bullocks were recently let out of their large spacious barn to start to graze on the lush spring pastures last week.
During the winter months, our 100% Grass Fed bullocks were well-fed on hay, which helped them to increase their frame size rather than necessarily gaining weight. However, once they start to graze on our nutrient-rich grass, they’ll begin to add condition to their growing frames.
Mob Grazing on Pipers Farm
At Pipers Farm HQ, we use the low-input system of mob grazing, where we move our cattle from one small paddock to the next every one to two days, and we don't return to that patch for at least 40 days and where we can, far longer.
To create these small paddocks, we use electric fences. First, we run out a length of electric fence to section off a new paddock and put out the posts. This year, we have had to put more posts out than usual because we have some young bullocks from one of our Red Ruby breeding farms on Exmoor who are not yet used to respecting the boundaries of the fence and like to escape!
Once we have set up the electric fence, we connect it to a solar-powered electric fencer and bring in the water bowl for the bullocks to drink from. When everything is ready, we open up the fence and let the cattle through to the new grass. This method allows us to rotate our livestock around the fields in a controlled manner, which not only benefits their health and wellbeing, but also helps to improve the soil and the overall ecosystem of our farm.
Improving Soil Health with Mob Grazing
We are constantly seeking ways of improving the soil health of the farm and mob grazing our herd is a big part of it. Unlike rotational grazing, the increasingly popular mob grazing sees paddocks rested for longer periods and grazed at higher grass covers. This technique benefits the plants and soil structure, building resilience in periods of wet and dry weather.
You can find out more about how we manage our soil health over on our The Importance of Soil Health blog.
Herbal Leys & Mob Grazing
Over the past few years at Pipers Farm HQ, we’ve ‘oversown’ some of our long-established pastures, with herbal ley mixes from our friends at Cotswold Seeds.
These replicate traditional pastures with a diversity of clovers, grasses, and herbs. These plants and grasses are perfect for mob grazing as they throw deeper roots and are more resilient to weather extremes.
To find out more about grasses and herbal leys, read our blog Herbs for Herbivores, Why All Grass is Not Equal.
The Many Benefits of Mob Grazing
Resting the pasture for as long as possible between grazings, allows grasses and herbs to grow taller and put down deeper roots. Together with the plant material trampled into the soil surface, as food for the soil biology, including the earthworms, this helps to improve soil structure, and for oxygen and water to travel more freely through the soil.
The billions of bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi convert the energy of the sun into sugars which nourish the grasses above. This is the incredible process of photosynthesis which takes Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere, stores carbon in the soil, and releases Oxygen back into the atmosphere.
The other vital benefit of mob-grazing is that the cattle are spreading ‘forage, recycled as cowpats’ evenly across the pasture. Because our cattle are eating a completely natural diet their gut biology is in harmony with the soil biology.
The billions of bacteria in the cow pats are part of an incredible cycle of Nature, most clearly demonstrated by the Swallows swooping low over the pastures and the grazing cattle; and at dusk, the magical sight of many species of Bats and Owls, all of them feeding off insects or small mammals living in the ‘natural harmony’ of pasture and cattle.