Yes, You Can Make Rotational Grazing Practical

Yes, You Can Make Rotational Grazing Practical

Iowa cattlemen who went on the recent tri-state bus tour picked up some practical tips for raising pasture-based beef.

The head of Ferrero, an imported Italian show bull once owned by Harold Trump, is mounted on the dining room wall in his farmhouse near Luray, Mo. Although he has an elk head and moose antlers mounted on the wall as well, Trump says this serves as a reminder of the docile bull, which the Trumps came to know as a pet.

Trump's operation was just one of several stops for the 2012 tri-state beef tour held in July by Iowa State University Extension. He offered producers a look at practical applications in rotational grazing.

Harold Trump offers down-to-earth applications in his pasture-based beef cattle operation near Luray, Mo.

In the hilly terrain of northeast Missouri, Trump differs from his neighbors in his feeding methods. He doesn't feed any grain from April through November, as long as he can do without. "Some people feed their cattle pretty hard, I don't," he says, noting he also differs from others in the use of gluten in winter. "My cows don't get a lot of pampering in winter." For the most part, he rotationally grazes his 225 head of Angus cattle, usually moving between paddocks of 5 to 20 acres every three days.

Pasture-based beef operations need to be practical, focused toward customer

Trump also differs from Iowa rotational grazers. He uses fescue, preferring to buy heifers at about 550 to 600 pounds in fall from suppliers in northwest Nebraska and South Dakota, to get them accustomed to the grass by the time they have to rely on it the following spring. That's when most cattle are known to develop reluctance to consume it, a particular concern among Iowa cattlemen.

Trump has tried a variety of grazing techniques. He had difficulty with the dry weather this summer. Because of extremely dry conditions, his forage could potentially fail to re-grow, something that has affected foragers in Iowa as well. If this happens, Trump says he may have to supplement his cattle with dry gluten, as is sometimes the case when grazing land dries up before harvest. "So far, I haven't had to have any," he notes. "Normally I don't at all."

With this year's extreme drought, cattlemen supplementing grass with feed

If pastures become too dry in the fall, Trump usually supplements this with three to four pounds of gluten pellets daily, although he prefers to stay away from this if possible. "I like to keep them on pasture as long as I can."

Another thing Trump does differently from neighbors is buying smaller-framed cattle, although he has a variety of both on his farm. While some buyers may prefer a larger-framed heifer, he says smaller-framed cattle have their benefits as well, like requiring less forage for growth, and allowing more room for this growth. "I think it's more efficient," he says of the smaller frames. "I've tried to breed for better fertility and easier-keeping kinds of cows."

Buying smaller-framed feeder cattle has some benefits for pasture-based beef

When he sells his bred heifers the Friday after Thanksgiving, usually at around 1,250 pounds, Trump guarantees pregnancy for 30 days after sale--part of the Show-Me Select program available in the region of northern Missouri and parts of southern Iowa.

Due to the practicality of his operation, visitors with the 2012 Iowa beef tour found Trump's farm relatable to their own. Jerry Davis, a producer from the Chariton, Iowa, area, says Trump's approach is one that buyers will find appealing. "He doesn't try to put a lot of polish or shine on the heifer," says Davis. "He tried to present her to the customer the way she looks in the pasture."

Through this model, Davis says Trump's operation is down-to-earth, and has management ideas the average producer can learn from. "I think he had both a practical and sustainable operation," he says. "He just had a lot of common sense and practicality."

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