One of the perks of bale grazing cattle is the reduction of daily and weekly feeding in the wintertime. The entire supply of hay to be fed through the winter is set out all at once in the fall.
Jerry Lindquist is an Extension grazing educator at Michigan State University. He says a single strand of electric portable fence is strategically moved across the field so the cows have access to only a portion of the bales at a time. Producers can then simply walk or ride a 4-wheeler out to the field to move the wire fence, which saves money.
"There’s no heavy equipment so there’s less depreciation and wear and tear on the engines of tractors in the wintertime so they save on that cost," says Lindquist. "And they estimate that their total labor cost for winter feeding is reduced conservatively by 25%, and some people feel it’s reduced by 50%-75% because you do the majority of that bale movement all at one time."
Hay wastage and manure left by the cows as they follow the rows of hay bales across the field increases the fertility of the soil. He says a key for uniform nutrient coverage is strategic placement of the bales.
"University of Missouri research has found that setting bales about 35-feet apart on-center, to the center of the bale, that would be the spacing in the row between each bale. And that then allows for a good uniform manure and hay wastage drop that improves fertility," says Lindquist.
Lindquist says he’s seen producers over the years increase their soil organic matter by 50%.
Read more about how winter bale grazing can help the farmer and the animals.