Got it licked … without the lick?
Cattle are herbivores that thrive on pasture. They do exceptionally well when raised in a rotationally grazed system (regular and frequent movement onto fresh pasture). A model in this manner mimics their natural habits of herd migration. Frequent rotation of paddocks aids in the prevention of parasites, the promotion of overall health and the production of high quality forage. …
… Over time this system will promote healthier forage and higher yields by evenly distributing nutrients and increasing organic matter, as well as reducing stress on plants in the pasture …
My cattle – all three of them – get their nutrients all year round from the rotational grazing of seventeen paddocks kept in permanent pasture. The only supplement I give them is salt: Himalayan pink rock salt. It contains many trace minerals, but the concentrations are too low to do much good; ninety-eight percent sodium chloride, it’s the sodium in the block that contributes to their good health.
It’s several years since my ten-year old Dexter, Violet, had her last calf – she’s quite literally ‘out to pasture’ for the rest of her life. The two year olds – a heifer and a steer – will graze permanent pasture for two more years: one then gets sold and the other ends up as meat for our table; Dexters are small cattle, but there’s usually vacuum-packed beef left over from the previous home kill despite the lengthy gap.
A profitable enterprise it is not, but pasture-fed and my labour kept to a minimum, it suits me just fine. I don’t drench them or give them mineral supplements, and the only time I feed out a maintenance ration of hay is when the pasture is under a deep blanket of snow.
Two years from now, I’ll buy in two weaned calves as replacements. And for the first two months I’ll leave a high-sided container in their paddock that contains the minerals recommended by Pat Coleby* in her book, Natural Cattle Care. The idea is to keep any internal parasites in check until the calves, feeding on lush pasture and in a low stress environment, noticeably start to put on condition.
It’s the copper in the mix that deals to the internal parasites but according to Pat Coleby it needs to be in much higher concentrations than is available in proprietary mixes and mineral blocks. The catch there is to neutralise the toxicity of such high concentrations of copper by adding six times as much dolomite lime to the mix as there is copper sulphate. Dolomite contains plenty of calcium, but it is also rich in magnesium, a trace mineral that New Zealand soils tend to be deficient in.
The other ingredients in the mix are yellow sulphur powder and dried, ground-up seaweed. Sulphur’s good for getting rid of external parasites and can aid in giving their hides quite a sheen. Seaweed, of course, is very rich in trace minerals.
As I said earlier, I stop providing the lick after they’ve been here a couple of months. One less expense, one less chore: pasture-fed, rotationally grazed, the youngsters doing just fine (or so I’ve found in the past) on a mix of long grasses, white and red clover and whatever’s there of other herbs.
*Pat Coleby – “Nature has no sense of unfair play, she is ever true, ever serious, and the errors and misconceptions are always man’s.”
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.