When starting out in livestock farming there is a lot that a beginner farmer may want know of such as the number of cattle suitable for a certain area.
To know the number of cattle allowed in a certain area is very important, so to prevent overgrazing through overstocking and/or under stocking.
When determining the number of cattle per acre a farmer should take to account the stocking rate, difference between grazing pressure and stocking density.
You should understand the factors that are involved in determining ways to stock your pasture. By just assuming that the default rate is one cow per acre is not advisable because some factors can contradict with this statement.
Below are some factors you should take into account when judging how many cows are recommended per acre:
The Location: Where in the world do you live? Are you raising livestock in Africa, India, USA, etc. Stating the province or state will not answer your question of how many heads of cattle are required per acre. For example in places like Alberta, there’s various variation from east to west and north to south to determine the stock rate.
The Type and Quality of the Soil: Before you choose land to graze your livestock you should have an idea of the quality of the soil. Knowing your soil will have a role in the number of cattle heads you can have per acre. Soil that is of poor quality will produce less quality plants then good quality soil. There are 3 known types of soil which are sandy, loamy and clayey. Sandy and clayey soils turn to reduce biomass, where else loamy soil tends to allow higher forage thus also higher biomass.
When locating the farm area to graze your cattle it is a good idea to get it tested as to determine the type, nutrient level and quality that your soil possesses. Knowing this information will help you in determining whether to fertilize it and what type of fertilizer it may need.
The Quantity and Quality of the Vegetation: You should determine the quality and quantity of your pasture vegetation. The size and quality of the forage plays a crucial part in determining how many heads of cattle per acre is recommended in your farm. A general principle to follow is that the higher the forage yield, the more number of cows you can have per acre. To measure forage yield you can calculate the total mass of forage produced per unit of land area over some period of time.
To calculate forage mass you should take all the forage from a 1 foot by 1 foot square and then cutting it 4 to 6 inches above ground, weighing it as fed matter, then after that drying it out in a Vortex Dryer, or anything that can be used to evaporate moisture from the sward collected or feed. After you have done this you should weigh it again. This weight can be used to calculate the average forage yield of your pastures.
Throughout the course of the year you should understand that the vegetation quantity and quality is bound to change, which then determines the health of the pasture. The less healthy the pasture is, the less number of cattle required for those pastures. When the grass in your pasture is starting to emerge, you would not want any livestock grazing the area because they can destroy the growing grass.
The Type of Vegetation: The type of vegetation you graze your livestock on is very important. Are you grazing your cattle on native grass, crop fields, tame grass with legumes or forest? When grazing them on native pastures you need to graze them more carefully and not over graze them. Less head per acre is required when grazing them on forests than pastures or fields.
The Precipitation: You should get to know the annual precipitation level of your farm area. The less biomass your area has means less precipitation and higher precipitation generally means it is associated with higher biomass. They are usually measured in inches or millimetres.
The Type of Cows: Are your fields going to be grazing beef or dairy cattle? Beef cattle tend to consume less than dairy cattle since their bodies require lactation. Dairy cattle also need better quality pasture than beef cattle.
The Class of The Cattle: What different class of cattle will be grazing your pastures? Are you going to be grazing different types of class together or you will be separating them?
When talking about class we are relatively speaking about the gender, age and reproductive stage of the cattle.
– If you have cows are they not bred or bred? Young or old?
– If you have bulls are they fully mature or are still growing? Coming off breeding season? Young or old?
– If you have heifers, are you grazing them as stockers or replacements? Are they being fattened for slaughter?
– If you have calves, are they raised as veal calves, are they bottle babies or they are still on their mothers?
The Weight of Your Livestock: The weight of your cattle plays a big role in determining the number of heads of cattle needed in a specific peace of land. A general rule is that the bigger the cattle, the more they eat, resulting in more area needed by each to graze on. The weight is measured in kilograms and/or pounds then rounded off to the nearest ten to hundred Ibs.
No matter what type of grazing method you may choose, stock your pastures accordingly. Always manage your pastures so they can produce throughout the year. Keep an eye on the pasture conditions, grazing pressure, the weight of your livestock and forage quality. From time to time try to change your stocking density and rate accordingly.
In order to have a healthy livestock farm you should keep in mind that green pastures are a must in raising well fed cattle. Also keep the livestock farm clean and get your livestock checked by a vet every once in a while to make sure they are free from diseases.