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GRAZING: REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

John King: Stock density drives success

JOHN KING
Last updated 10:55, May 14 2018 – STUFF.CO.NZ

Reducing carrying capacity does not eliminate overgrazing. Overgrazing is due to timing not stock numbers.

ADVICE: As American stockman Bud Williams said, “Your resources are grass, livestock, and money. It’s hard to have too much grass or money but real easy to have too many livestock.” Over-stocking is created by the belief that carrying capacity determines success.

Aussie colleague Graeme Hand offers this observation when farmers are low on feed: Lower carrying capacity (stocking rate), increase stock density, and lengthen recovery between grazing. Many farmers would rather lower stock density and overgraze pastures. This current or ‘best’ practice leads to debt, risk, and declining production.

Drawing on ideas of Zimbabwean Johann Zietsman, a stockman renown for running cattle at 5000 head/ha/day to shock landscapes into production, Graeme cranked up cattle density to 1000 hd/ha/d moved six times a day on his south-western Victoria farm. Like farmers in North America who’ve tried this he found significant change in pasture and landscape function as evidenced by active soil life, increased perennial grass density and litter decomposition.

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John King: Let fun, not fear, drive your choices

Rick Cameron and his brother Peter bought their farm during the oil crisis in 1973 and with only 18 per cent equity.

ADVICE: Freedom to fail comes from drudgery of numbers. If you’re not prepared to observe, monitor, and record, fear rather than fun drives your choices, according to Milton sheep farmer Rick Cameron. Being in the top 3 per cent of taxpayers results from knowing when enough is enough instead of maxing yields. Numbers and discipline make farmers successful.

Debt is a catalyst for many farmers to question industry information. As Rick observes, experience comes from losing someone else’s money, wisdom comes from losing your own. Education and training can never substitute wisdom because there’s no emotional loss.

Rick and his brother Peter bought their farm during the oil crisis in 1973 and with only 18 per cent equity, so financial returns drove everything.

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Good Grazing Management: Build a Drought Reserve

May 23, 2018

An Angus calf grazing

One of the best ways to prepare for drought is by building and maintaining a drought reserve. A drought reserve is forage (grass, forbs, brush or whatever your livestock will eat) that is not consumed by the animals during the growing sea­son. This forage is then available if rain doesn’t come or can be grazed during the dormant season.

The traditional and most logical way to build a drought reserve is to set aside some land and not graze it. If you need to, you can turn your livestock into these areas and they can survive on the forage you have stockpiled there. Think of this as a savings account. But instead of saving money, you are saving forage.

In a traditional drought reserve your savings account is separate from your checking account. Think of your check­ing account as grass that you are grazing, possibly multiple times a year. The bal­ance in your checking account changes all the time; sometimes you have a sur­plus of grass and at other times you might be low.

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