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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Harrowing Pastures

The purpose of harrowing is to spread the the manure mounds more evenly across the pasture.

Without harrowing there are resultant green patches which cattle will avoid eating unless forced by the lack of other feed in the paddock. In order to force the cattle to nibble at these green mounds they must remain in the paddock for a longer period. This additional stay results in overgrazing the areas between green patches until finally they have no alternative but to nibble around the decomposing manure. The overgrazing slows down the recovery rate of the pasture (think of it as solar panels) and can lead to the dying out of some species and the increasing dominance of less palatable species (unwanted weeds).

Cattle manure is “free to good home” fertiliser. All that is required is to spread it evenly around the paddock and encourage a rapid incorporation into the soil. Leaving it as mounds over stimulates those patches while leaving the remaining pasture short of the free nutrient.

The harrows below are dragged behind a lightweight 4WD RTV and are small enough to work behind a quad bike. The paddocks on this property are about a hectare in size and the harrowing activity takes very little time and is performed as soon as the cattle have exited the paddock while the manure is still fresh and soft and spreads like butter.

Chain harrows in need of some repair
The harrows have a metal ring at the apex of the chains that is dropped over the tow ball for a quick connection. Once the harrowing is finished they are left at the entrance to the next cell. A white electric fence post is used as a marker for their location. Without the marker they are known to disappear in rapid growing grass.

The typical pattern left after harrowing. The manure is spread over  much larger area. These streaks disappear in just a few days.
A close up of the manure pat after harrowing
If there is excessive woody growth in a paddock and it needs slashing the slashing is completed first and then the paddock harrowed. Using a mulching mower rather than a slasher negates the separate step of harrowing.

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