Rotational grazing

ROTATIONAL GRAZING

Ken Risler

            Ellis Huntsinger established Huntsinger Farms in 1929.  After moving to its present location in 1936, it has grown to be the largest grower and processor of Silver Spring Horseradish in the world.

Huntsinger Farms operates 7,000 acres on a 7-year rotation including horseradish, corn, soybeans, hay, and pasture.  The 1,000 plus acres of hay are harvested and stored in two 40 by 120 foot bunker silos and large round bales. One third of the bales are kept under cover with balance outside with net wrap.  Surplus hay is sold each year to local dairy farmers.

Our beef cow herd, which was started in 1982 with 50 crossbred cows, has grown to 500 cows.  Cows are exposed to the bulls for 45 days.  Calves are born in March and April and weaned in September.  Our beef finishing barn and feedlot, which was built in 1993, has 260 steers on feed.  Heifers are fed during the winter in open lots with man made windbreaks and fence line feed bunks.  Surplus heifers are sold as replacements.

Rotational grazing was introduced in 1984.  By rotating the cattle, they have access too much more and better quality forage.  The 500 cow calf pairs are divided into 3 groups which graze16 paddocks ranging in size from 25 to 40 acres.  Total acres in pasture for the 500 cow calf pairs and 20 bulls are 630 acres.  The 3 factors that determine how often cattle are rotated into fresh paddocks are weather, rainfall, and the time of year.

The majority of the 630 acres is seeded with reed canary grass.  We fertilize once a year in July with 60 pounds of actual nitrogen.  Reed canary grass is difficult to establish, as seedling development is slow.  Once established, however, it is very aggressive and will survive very well.   Seeding rate was 10 pounds per acre.  In 1992, when the seeding was done we added 2 pounds of trefoil alfalfa per acre to 3 of the paddocks.  Within 3 years the trefoil was gone.  It was crowded out by the rapid growth of the reed canary grass.  All of our pastures are clipped at least once early in the grazing season to maintain high quality.  Reed canary grass must be well maintained to avoid over growth and low quality.

Grazing paddocks are divided with single strand 14 gauge electric wires and fiberglass posts.  I have used almost every type of post on the market, but the fiberglass is currently the most widely used.  Perimeter fences consist of 2 or 3 high tensole, 12 gauge wires and fiberglass posts.  Energizers are solar and battery powered.  All electric fences are kept grass and weed free by spraying once a year in late May or early June.  Roundup and water is used on the 30-inch band under the fences.