by Glenn Crumpler
For the past few weeks, we have been constructing new fencing and cross fencing on the 45 acres where we plant our winter grazing in the cold months and where crabgrass grazing is available in the warmer months. This has been a pretty large investment of time, labor and supplies as we replaced all of the old, rusty perimeter fencing and rotten posts with four strands of high-tensile electric fencing and brand-new posts.
We also installed four two-strand, high-tensile cross fences going east and west (each a quarter-mile long) paralleling our existing, old, one-strand cross fences to make lanes. We cross fenced those again going north and south, creating 10 paddocks with lanes and gates leading into each paddock.
There are four gates on each line of cross fences so we can move cattle from one paddock to the other; reassemble stray young calves that occasionally wander or get pushed through the wire into another paddock; and for the fertilizer trucks to have access to each paddock.
We use this system so we can practice what is most-often referred to as "rotational grazing," where cattle are moved from paddock to paddock in a rotational pattern to allow the first paddock time to recover and put on new growth before it is grazed again.
In theory, all through the season, the cattle are able to stay on grazing with optimal nutritional value.
It is a bit more complicated than this, but we construct lanes and paddocks for several reasons.
First, with the smaller paddocks, we can get the cattle to consume all of the grazing (mature and less mature/desirable and less desirable) to the desired level, eliminating waste. It also leaves enough leaf for photosynthesis to help obtain optimal regrowth of the plants in a timely manner.
Second, keeping the cattle in smaller areas concentrates the feces and urine so nutrients are put back into the soil on a more uniform basis.
Third, it makes it easier to turn the cows on the grazing for a few hours to get only the nutrients they need, then put them back on hay for the rest of the day. When cattle get full and lie down, they are just wasting the grazing. We want to remove them before they lie down.
Fourth, it helps us have all of the lactating cattle on grazing, while also keeping them in assigned groups to match with parentage. In other words, we currently have all our lactating cattle in three groups by age and pedigree, with each group having their own bull. This helps us plan our matings and keep track of the pedigrees of the calves to be born next fall.
Fifth, moving the cattle on and off every day, and moving them from paddock to paddock every few days, just makes them easier to handle. Instead of driving them, they learn to respond to our calling them and follow us. Just like with people, it is always easier to lead cattle than it is to push them!
One thing required to make this system work is good fencing so the cattle learn to stay within the lanes when going from paddock to paddock and to stay within a particular paddock once they are put there.
In our scenario, good electric fencing is the best option and it is much easier to install, to repair and to maintain than net wire or barbed wire.
Our cows are all restrained by electric fencing with some areas being four to five strands along the highway and others just one old, rusty strand. It all stays hot. They know it is hot and don’t try to cross it.
If you are not familiar with electric fencing, it does not hurt you and will not kill you or the animals, but it does send a brief, pulsating surge of electric current that is very uncomfortable and will make you want to turn it loose pretty quickly!
One negative thing about electric fencing is that it is often hard to see, especially if it is new and the cows do not know it is there. Cows and especially calves, when turned out into a new pasture, will inevitably run and jump and enjoy their new grazing land and check out the borders they have to range in. Unless they know where the almost invisible fencing is at, they will run right through it before they realize it – never experiencing the shock.
For this reason, we spent a lot of time flagging the new fencing. Every 10-15 feet, we tied an orange piece of plastic surveying tape to the fence to allow the cattle to see it and know it is there before they run through it. They all know what electric fencing is. They respect it and stay within its boundaries. However, if they don’t know it is there, they will often go right through it without intending to.
Before Ben, our fall intern from Mississippi State University, began putting up the new fence, I gave him instructions on how I wanted it laid out and constructed. These instructions were based on years of experience on how cows think, how they react to pressure when being moved and how they would best navigate back and forth between the permanent pasture and the winter-grazing paddocks.
This will be especially important when we need to move them in the afternoons or if we needed to catch one up for treatment.
When I got home from India and Africa, I expected to see the fence installed the way I had directed or commissioned Ben. That is exactly what he and Darryl had done!
We turned the cattle on the winter grazing two days ago and took them off for the first time yesterday. Everything worked just as we had planned.
As I sat in my office on this cold drizzly morning having just checked the cattle on the new grazing and trying to decide what to write about, I was reading in the Gospel of John, specifically chapters 12-17.
I could not help but notice, as Jesus was preparing His disciples for what He was about to go through, what their lives should be like after He was gone and what He was calling and preparing them to do, two emphases stood out like the orange flagging tape on the fence: "commandments" and "the world."
In just the words Jesus spoke, it is significant that He used the words "commandments," "command," "commanded," "my word" and "things I have spoken" 25 times in these six short chapters. He used the word "world" 46 times (19 times in chapter 17 alone, when He was praying).
In these passages, Jesus tells us He did everything the Father "commanded" Him to do and all of the Father’s "commands" are everlasting. Jesus also gave them a new "command" to love one another just as Jesus had loved them so the "world" would know they were His disciples.
He went on to say, "If you love me, you will keep My commandments. … He who has My commandments and keeps them, is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. ... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me." (New American Standard)
He warns us that in this "world" we will have troubles, but promises that if we keep His "commands," even in the midst of the troubles, we will have joy and peace, and whatever we ask for in His name and according to His will, He will do it!
When I look at the prayer of Jesus in John 17 (26 verses – almost nine times longer than any other recorded prayer of Jesus in the Bible), I see He mentioned "the world" 19 times. He is making it clear that He loves all the people in the world and He died for the sins of all the world. His desire is for the entire world to know and experience His love, and have the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation He purchased for them when He gave His life so they could be reconciled to God the Father and inherit eternal life.
There are a lot of commands in the Word of God. Two stand out: (1) We are to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. (2) We are to "Go you therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you ...."
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
This is a flag showing us where we are and begs the question, "Do we really love Him?"Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com