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Four things I’ve learned from mob grazing

By Kalyn McKibben, 2015 Lloyd Noble Scholars in Plant Science

Posted Jul. 2, 2015

There are not too many acres of good good-condition native rangeland sprawling the landscapes of Oklahoma. Even so, one of my projects while interning with the Noble Research Institute was a “Mobmob,” or high stock density grazing, simulation. High stock density grazing is a type of rotational grazing pattern that uses relatively large herds of cattle in untraditionally small paddocks to allow them to graze for very short periods of time followed by extended recovery periods. Some of the main goals are to manipulate eating habits of cattle (minimize selective grazing), maintain a desirable average daily gain (ADG), and improve range condition, soil health and overall production.

Here are a few things learned from the project:

1. Water and electricity do not mix well.

Because of all the rain (30 inches since I have been here, to be specific), things have been a little soggy at times in Ardmore America. The first day of the grazing project greeted me with subtle rolling thunder and calming rain showers. The only issue I found was that high-voltage electric fence and water droplets do not mix, even when plastic insulators are used. I lost track of how many times I was shocked.

cattle grazing on native pastureFew things are more peaceful than watching cattle graze on native pasture.

2. Cattle are great learners.

It takes a little training for cattle to be okay OK with going from a wide-open pasture to a 1/12 12-acre paddock. Thankfully, cattle are wonderful learners. Interacting with the cattle by mingling and moving them on foot (or horseback) in a low stress, calm approach encouraged trust from the cattle. And once the calves learned what an electric fence was by either accidentally bumping into it or being pushed by their buddy, they gain respect for the barrier very quickly.

calves content in small forage areaThe calves obviously do not mind being contained in a smaller area because they have buddies and fresh forage and water.

3. Eating habits can be changed.

The whole point of the study was to monitor the change and manipulate eating habits of the cattle. Just like people, iIf given the choice, I would eat ice cream constantly. But from a health standpoint, munching on veggies would be much more beneficial for my body. When I model my eating habits to be closer to what my body needs, I start to lose my appetite for ice cream. In the same way, cattle enjoy the “ice cream” plants, but their bodies need more of the nutrients found in the initially less palatable plants. It is all about managing the calves’ and the land to train a new pattern of eating that is great for the animal and even better for the land.

beautiful native grassesNative grasses sure are beautiful!

4. Taking care of the land pays big dividends.

The whole idea of vigorously grazing the land for short periods at a time followed by extended recovery allows the grass to recuperate and come back healthier- and freer fromof invasive species. Years of diligent land management techniques using grazing animals reap big dividends in overall soil health and forage quantity and quality by rebuilding the soil, and returning organic matter to the soil and encouraging the production of beneficial soil organisms.

pasture

About the Author

Kalyn McKibben is a 2015 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture and a fifth-generation beef producer from Wyandotte, Oklahoma. Crediting much of her passion to her upbringing, McKibben learned valuable life lessons alongside family members on their commercial cow-calf operation. She is a senior at Oklahoma State University studying animal science business and agricultural economics.

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