Easier and Cheaper Holistic Planned Grazing: Low-Stress Loose-Herding at Circle Ranch Pt.1

Circle Ranch - Low-Stress Loose-Herding

A frequent complaint about planned grazing is that it is too costly, and hard to implement.

This winter, Circle Ranch is running 450 mother cows and their calves.  We are ‘loose herding’ rather than concentrating with electric fences.  This method of planned grazing offers a cheaper and easier way of bringing periodic animal impact to our desert grasslands, since it reduces the complexity of the necessary water and fencing systems, and reduces labor.  It also helps animal performance.

Follow our progress with this refinement of planned grazing, on the videos posted below.

This is the first video in a series using low stress cattle handling techniques to instill herd instinct in cattle. Once the cattle are trained in three to four weeks, they will be herded (without the use of temporary electric fences) through a 32,000 acre grazing plan on the Circle Ranch in west Texas.

Gathering cattle out of brush using low stress methods, one person, no dogs and everything paired going out the gate

Commentary by Bob Kinford:

One thing I want to emphasize before going any farther, is that instilling the herd instinct happens much faster when when using the same class of cattle in a herd, and all of the cattle arrive at the same time. This project is being done with the cattle coming in over a period of three to four weeks, and consisting of everything from open yearling heifers, to older dry cows, to week old pairs and calving cows.  Instilling the herd instinct in a mixed group of cattle like this is harder (but not impossible) as the younger open cows move out readily while the springers will move slower, and cows with young calves have to pick up their babies and can only move as fast as their calves. Never the less, The cattle are basically grazing the areas of the pasture they are being placed into.  As mentioned in last week’s post, the weather threw a kink into the program when a cold front moved in ahead of a storm and the cattle drifted into the brush. Tracks showed that the cattle were staying together until one part of the herd hit a fork in the trail and split them into two bunches. Somewhere in the middle of the brush, part of the one group stopped while the other kept going into the next pasture, as the fence has been down in that area for years. As Monday was my day for changing pastures anyway, I gathered the draws and placed those cattle in the southwest corner of the new pasture. The video above shows how easy it is to gather in the brush and put the cattle through a gate and still have the cattle paired.  Because of the way things wound up the first week, and the move, the cattle are now in three groups, watering in three different places. Despite this, the cattle are still grazing in the same general area of the pasture, it just requires me to pick up each group off of their water point and place them. When they go to water, each group is going back to the water point they are familiar with. Despite the current stage in the training process, we are still getting the desired animal impact from concentrating the cattle as in the picture below.

Low stress cattle handling method to turn cattle in pasture or pens by lateral movement and taking pressure off the cow.

“Three Endangered far-West Texas Species: Grass, Cows and Cowboys”

In 2013, Holistic Management International of Albuquerque will offer three Cows and Quail workshops across Texas.  These will teach how to use cattle and wildlife together to improve habitat for both: Go here for information.


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