INT 18 Low cost management techniques to improve pasture production
At this First Street Pasture, MBFI is researching low cost methods of increasing the pasture production on marginal pastures. This page provides information about this particular research project; including the background, objectives, and updates.
- Project Lead: Jane Thornton, Farm Production Extension – Forage and Pasture (Manitoba Agriculture) | Send Email
- Project Start: June 2015
- Project Status: Completed October 2017
- Location: First Street Pasture
About This Project
The First Street Pasture is made up of 403 acres of pastureland that has inherently poor productivity due to sandy soils. Historically this pasture was grazed as a single unit with one water source in the southwest corner. The distance to water has caused overgrazing near the water source and underutilized the farthest reaches. This land is also infested with leafy spurge which is densest near the water source. Leafy spurge has an inverse relationship with forage production, as it increases in density and spreads throughout the pasture it decreases forage production. The First Street Pasture has qualities similar to a great deal of pastures in Manitoba. This project will look at low cost infrastructure and management changes to see if they can improve the production on this type of land.
- To increase production through implementing low cost changes to management and infrastructure through:
- Rotational grazing using singl strand electric fence, no gates and shallow buried water lines
- Introduction of legumes
- Reduction in leafy spurge
- To determine if production increases are enough to offset the extra costs of the added infrastructure and labor through an economic analysis.
As of March 2017-The pasture has been changed from one 403 acre pasture with one water source to nine paddocks ranging in size from 23 ac to 98 ac and shallow buried water line so that each paddock has a water source. The rotational grazing system is distributing cattle better than the one paddock system used previously. So far it is too early to tell if the rotational grazing system is impacting forage production, carrying capacity or livestock gains. To keep fencing costs low not all paddocks have a gate. Lack of gates does not seem to hamper livestock movement from one paddock to another as the cattle learn quickly to pass under the wire; fresh pasture being the incentive. However, vehicle travel is more cumbersome and two people are required when using the truck. Guides to slip the wire beneath the truck or quad would facilitate easier movement when using motorize vehicles.
In 2017 cattle will be rotationally grazed and data will be collected on cattle weight gains, forage yields, forage quality and forage residue (litter).
As of October 2015 - Fifty cow-calf pairs were rotationally grazed starting June 13 at an average distribution of 8 acres per head. The herd passed through most pastures twice during the grazing season. The cattle were weighed on entry, 40 days on pasture and 81 days on pasture. The pasture was divided into ten paddocks using single strand electric wire. Shallow buried water lines were installed to service the paddocks with five spigots, quick couplers and movable troughs. A limited number of gates were installed to reduce the cost of the fencing. Cattle were trained to go under the wire of the fence by coaxing them with feed and herding them toward the uplifted portion of the fence.
Soil tests and forage yields were taken in the paddocks and across different types of land; upland, lowland, bale feeding sites and non-bale feeding sites. Thirty grazing cages were set up throughout the pastures to collect yield data.