Here at Ramsay Hill we rotate our cows every day. By rotate I mean the cows are moved to fresh grass each day. This is called rotational grazing. The acreage is divided up by internal fencing into one acre paddocks and the cows are rotated through all of the paddocks every 30-40 days. In other words, on any given day, whichever paddock the cows are currently grazing on has been resting for the previous 30-40 days. In the future I would like to fluctuate each paddock size throughout the year based on how much rain we get.
There are several variables that a cattle farmer, or rancher (whichever title floats your boat), has to deal with. These variables determine how much food, in this case beef, can be produced. Those variables are land, water, soil fertility, and time. This is not an exhaustive list. All other variables constant, each of these variables is directly proportionate with the amount of food that can be produced. For example, the more land you have the more cows you can have. For this post we will just focus on water. Water, in my case, is only provided to the land through rain.
Rain determines how many cattle I can get per acre of land that I have because it determines how much the grass will grow. This is important because all our cows eat here at Ramsay Hill is grass! The more it rains, the more the grass grows and the more weight my cows gain.
In seasons of drought I will have to make a decision to reduce my herd size…i.e. sell cows. Quick side note: one option ranchers have in drought is to feed hay. Hay is an extremely expensive way to get through seasons of drought. That is all I will say about hay in this post, but I may write a separate post on that subject alone so check back! Back to our topic: in order to make the decision to sell cattle after a prolonged period without rain, I have to know how much grass I have. When I am rotating the cows daily I can see clearly how much grass the cows will have tomorrow. With that knowledge I can see how much grass I have and I can estimate how long it will last.
I will pull this all together now: rotational grazing, monitoring grass on the ground daily and monitoring rain fall, all provide me with a plan for drought. That plan takes away the guess work and allows me to know exactly when and how much of my herd to liquidate. This knowledge allows me to act swiftly in times of drought instead of delaying the hard decision to sell. An unsure or delayed decision to sell often results in ranchers suffering great loss down the road.
In conclusion, rainfall is in God’s hands alone. But rotating my cows gives me a measure of control and foresight that I would otherwise not have. It allows me to accurately estimate how much grass I have, how long that grass can support my herd size, and when it’s time to sell.
-Jordan Ramsay, The Cow Whisperer