“The cows are feeding themselves and spreading manure,” said Mike Meyer, Monett, Mo.
“We have always been a grazing dairy,” said Dave Cahalan, “just not intensively managed grazing.” Dave, who runs the dairy on the family farm where he grew up near Pierce City, Mo., has been milking cows for over 30 years. He can remember his father planting wheat for winter pasture and hay-grazer for the summer. The 160-acre farm, located in Barry County, was eventually sown in fescue except for one field of alfalfa.
Dave started the changes about 6 years ago with a 20-acre field of millet. He sent his hired hand to grazing school, studied the notes and types of forage available. He talked to several farmers who were set up with a managed grazing system. That first summer was the start of what led to a bunch of spoiled cows who get new pasture every 12 hours except in December and January.
A study found that an average of $5.00 per acre for hay production can be obtained through managed grazing. “It was also found that the majority of acreage could produce an economically feasible return per acre, for both hay and beef production,” said Dr. Mike Dicks with Oklahoma State University.
TO START, Dave drew a map of the farm and planned what and where to plant. Fences on paper are easier to move than fences in the field. Thirty-five acres of cereal rye provide the forage for close to six months a year. “Depending on the weather,” according to Dave, “it’s a matter of looking at what you have and how to use it.” When the rye is done, those fields will be planted with a summer forage such as millet or hay-grazer.
Dave manages his herd of 60-80 Holsteins on two acre paddocks divided with a cross fence. He put T-posts on both ends of the field and strung electric wire that can be moved for planting, fertilizing or hay baling. The cross fence is pulled through to the next paddock once a day. Ideally, the cows get the first half of a paddock at night when they eat less and the whole two acres the next day. In the heat of the summer, it is reversed.
THE MILLET PAID for itself in the first 30 days with an increase in milk production of about 10 pounds per cow. “I’m sure I would not be milking right now if I hadn’t gone to this,” said Dave. “When the cows are in the rye grass they are just happier. They only eat about 10 pounds of grain in the barn.”
Cereal Rye is planted in the fall. The cows graze that until the first part of December or when the grass quits growing.
Twelve acres of Orchard grass and Clover and 20 acres of wild grass, (that started out as permanent Rye) and Clover is grazed between the rye and summer grass.
THERE ARE FOUR PONDS on the farm. The paddocks are set up so that the cows can go to water any time they are ready. One thing he has learned is that the cows don’t look at the picture and see which way to go. Some fields have gate hooks on both sides to make it easy for them. It is something that is unique to each farm. Water in each paddock would be nice, but isn’t a must.
Being able to make a plan and then change it according to weather is essential. “Rye grass that gets ahead of the cows in the spring makes good feed for the next winter, so I have it baled and wrapped when that happens,” Dave explained. “Most of it is common sense.”


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