Developing an effective rotational grazing strategy doesn’t require a computer, CAD drawings or even graph paper and a calculator. As Vince Hundt quickly discovered, all it takes is a cattle producer with a keen eye and the proper equipment.
"If you want to be successful in grass-fed or grass-finished beef in today's business climate, you have to be very focused on the quality and care of your pastures," says Hundt, owner/operator of St. Brigid's Meadows, a certified organic farm specializing in 100% grass-fed beef in southwestern Wisconsin.
Hundt runs approximately 175 head of primarily Angus cattle on two large pastures – split into 40 acres and 56 acres of 75 head and 100 head respectively. He explains he started utilizing rotational grazing about ten years ago.
"I was slow to become aware of what is one of the most significant paradigm shifts in my lifetime," Hundt admits. "Rotational grazing is a seminal movement and is the brightest light in agriculture right now."
"With rotational grazing, the farmer walks out to his animals, and with his own feet and his own hands, sets the fence – no chemicals, no tractors, no combines," Hundt explains. "It is better for the animals, for the land, for the environment, and for sure – definitely the consumers. It's a game changer."
Hundt says rotational grazing works because of the right tools. He is committed to utilizing Gallagher products for all of his temporary fencing needs.
"Gallagher offers everything for a producer to get the job done right the first time and also be able to use the equipment for years to come," says Dane Headley, Territory Manager for Gallagher.
To have a successful rotational grazing strategy in warm conditions, Hundt says you must utilize three tools: portable fencing that is easy to use, portable watering that is easy to use, and a portable shade. "If not, the animals are stranded in the sun. And that's torture – there's no place to hide from the sun," he says.
"It is important to keep the cattle cool," he explains. "About 45 degrees is the perfect temperature for most cattle. When it's very warm, there is nothing more certain to reduce feed intake, weight gain and milk production than high heat."
Hundt says it's the radiant temperature of the sun that is of concern.
"The energy from the sun is absorbed by the cattle, their core temperature gets raised and they stop eating. All they need is some place to get out of the sun," he says.
To combat the summer heat, Hundt utilizes the product Shade Haven– large portable shade structures designed to keep cattle cool in pastures.
"Shade Haven works great for keeping my animals comfortable when temperatures rise while at the same time giving me an effective grazing tool to improve my pastures through the precise placement of nutrients," says Hundt. "Wherever I put the Shade Haven, that is where the animals will be and that is where the nutrients are deposited."
Hundt reminds fellow producers that developing an effective rotational grazing strategy in varied climate environments doesn't need to stress the cattleorthe farmer.
"Begin with an individualized plan for your operation. The right tools and the cattle will take care of the rest," he says. "All it takes is to move the fence, move the water and move the shade, to change the world."