Cape John Community Pasture Intensive Grazing Project
The Cape John, Intensive Grazing Project was started in 2011 with cooperation from the Cape John Community Pasture Coop, Perennia, the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers, Dal Agriculture, and AAFC. The project was completed in 2016.
In the years following BSE it was recognised that profitability in the Nova Scotia Beef industry had been challenging and many producers had responded by limiting production inputs where ever possible. Perennia was approached to work on an intensive grazing project in cooperation with the Nova Scotia Cattle industry. The hope was that with the implementation of Intensive Grazing Management that we could demonstrate that we could improve pasture productivity without breaking the bank.
In order to achieve this a 125 acre area of the 750 acres of the Cape John Community pasture was selected as a demonstration sight. This are which is used as a yearling pasture was divided into 13 smaller paddocks over the 2011 and 2012 grazing seasons. The 125 acre pasture had traditionally supported 90 yearlings when they were using continuous grazed. With the implementation of Intensive Rotational Grazing the number of yearlings grazed annually has doubled or more.
The cost of installing the cross fencing and improved watering system cost $132.00 per acre. If this is amortized over 25 years the investment per acre is $5.50. The increase in the number of cattle being pastured and the resulting increase in additional pound of beef produced is conservatively measured at 13,500 lb annually per year from the pasture as the result of improved pasture management. With current beef market prices this is generating an additional $22,950.00 per year in additional beef production. From the Cape John Coops perspective it is generating an additional $6000.00 in additional custom pasturing fees. The cost of implementing the Intensive Grazing Management was paid back in less than 3 years from the increase in pasture rental fees.
In addition to the Intensive Grazing this project has also investigated and demonstrated the impact of fertilizer application, sod seeding and Mob Grazing.
Fertilization and sod seeding were limited demonstration conducted on plots in the same pasture. The results, as expected showed in proved grass production and this production exceeded the value of the inputs by 2 times input costs.
The Mob Grazing demonstration was conducted over three seasons. The first season with two one acre plots, and in following year’s larger plots with the third year using one of the 13 rotational grazing paddocks. The Mob Grazing demonstrations were conducted by stock piling grass until late July or early August and then strip grazing with the cattle confined to strips at a weight of 500,000 to a 1,000,000 pounds of beef per acre. The cattle were moved on average every two hours to a fresh strip of pasture.
In 2016,, 10 acres of stockpile pasture yielded 9 days of grazing at the first of August when the pasture was running critically short as the result of an unseasonably dry summer. Without this stockpiled forage some of the cattle would have had to been moved or supplementary feeding would have been required.
In addition to providing pasture when the forage is limited in mid-summer Mob Grazing has resulted in improved forage productivity the following year without additional nutrients. In the spring of 2015 we saw the forage growth on the Mob Grazed area of 3.02 t/ha of dry matter compared to 2.58t/ha. Mob Grazing as a pasture management tool appears to improve pasture productivity and allows the producer to stockpile grass for periods of forage shortage during the pasture season or to extend the pasture season.
The experience at Cape John has shown that the application of Intensive Pasture Management can significantly improve pasture productivity and profitability in the beef industry.