Grassland management – putting theory into practice

3 May 2023

Alistair Cumming at Cowend, Stranraer, has always rotationally grazed, but is now taking his grassland management to a new level. After attending a grazing workshop and completing his 2022 Regenerative Farming Plan, Alistair is now strip grazing in tighter groups which is closer to what some call mob grazing. He shares the details:

We have around 12 strips on an 11 acre field. Cows have two milkings per strip but if the weather is particularly wet, they have the previous strip too. As we are on a long rotation of around 28 days a strip, we use slurry when needed after grazing. The grazing fields are growing faster than those for silage, which have been fertilised, and I’ve only topped one field because of weeds.

We have already seen some clear benefits. Grazing fields would usually have 2 cwt (0.1 tonne) of nitrogen fertiliser.

Since strip grazing, they haven’t received any yet grown more grass. We usually graze 70 cows through the summer but this has increased to 80 and I think we could potentially graze 90. Our milk protein is sitting at 3.5%, which is high for us at this time of year. After measuring the protein in our grass, we’ve reduced our dairy cake content to 16%.

We’ve already invested in additional electric fence posts but looking ahead we need more tracks as it can be messy when it rains. After a horribly wet night we woke to a dirty bog of a strip. The cows had trampled the grass and it resembled a slurry lagoon! After worrying how it would ever recover, it now has more grass than any other strip.

To sum up higher density grazing overall, I’d say it’s fantastic – it just works!

Grazing workshop in action

  • Rotational grazing based on 1 day grazed and 28 days rest
  • Less than 1 acre per day allocated to 80 cows – higher animal impact but longer rest
  • Growth rates faster than fertilised silage fields
  • Grass and milk protein up, allowing for a drop in dairy cake protein
  • Electric fencing key, more tracks required
  • Poached land recovered really well as cows only there for 1 day