There are a few privacy fences, and about 200' of mangled field fence, but all of these end and do not form an enclosed area. In the very back, there are a few lines of barbed wire that the turkeys, deer, and whatever else have made more decorative than functional. I also have the movable reinforced combo panel garden paddocks, and the movable, solar-charged electro-net, but there are not permanent enclosures.
Instead of fully-fenced permanent pastures, I use these tools for an intensive managed grazing system. But the electro-net and paddocks do not account for the cows. The paddocks house the chickens and pigs, and the electro-net contains the sheep.
The cows? They're tethered.
|Tethering cows: taking managed intensive grazing to new frontiers.|
For tethering them, I use the following items:
- Chain: 30' for Bridget, 25' for Brisket (and subsequent calves)
- Screw-in quick link (2 per chain)
- Interlocking spring snaps
- T-posts (or trees)
Starting from the cow, and working back:
- The spring snap connects to the halter and also to the swivel.
- The quick link connects the swivel to the end of the chain. I ended up using some rubber cement to bind the quick link screw together on the swivel.
- The other end of the chain has another quick link that allows me to vary the size of the anchor I am tying the cow to.
- For a T-post, I made about an 8" diameter loop.
- For trees, I leave enough slack to allow the chain to slide freely around the tree for a 360-degree rotation without tangles.
This system provides numerous benefits:
- I can control where and for how long they graze.
- I can keep them separated so Brisket doesn't try to nurse when he shouldn't be.
- I can keep the pasture managed properly to prevent overgrazing.
- I can keep them OUT of patches of weeds or rocks that i don't want them to be in.
- I get up close and personal with them each day so i can very closely monitor their health and condition.
- I always know where they are.
- It is much less expensive to implement than permanent cattle fencing.
- I can use trees, T-posts, privacy fence posts, carport rails, the front porch, the kids' swing set, etc. as tether anchors, providing lots of flexibility and numerous grazing options for the cows.
- Moving posts and hauling chains gives me a good workout!
Of course, there are some drawbacks:
- It takes a lot more work and effort to tether than to turn loose in a pasture.
- I have to be VERY cognizant of lightning storms (what with a piece of metal stuck a foot in the ground that is attached to more metal that is attached to my animals), and actively work to get them off the chain and into shelter as storms approach.
- I need to move T-posts at least once a day.
- Sometimes, they need to moved upwards of 4 times a day, depending on the location and the length and quality of the pasture where I tie them. (Although, I often can tie them in one spot for a whole day if it has enough grass and clover to keep them well-fed. Every day is different).
- I do not have the luxury of simply opening a gate and letting them go.
- They can get tangled, despite my preventative measures, and often need to be unwound from sticks and rocks.
Fortunately, i had some experience tethering before I got the cows. Samson the Donkey was tethered using a rope, and from that experience I learned several things that have made this round very successful:
- Animals will step on rope and wear out sections, leading to breakage.
- Rope ties in knots, and chain really doesn't.
- Rope cannot easily be made to swivel like chain can.
- Chain is heavier, but it is also FAR more durable.
- Chain is easier to untangle from around trees, sticks, shrubs, saplings, rocks, animal legs, etc.
|As they graze, the heaviest parts of the chain (i.e., the big ol' swivel) lie flush with the ground.|
The tethering system doesn't interfere at all with the cows' ability to graze.
It merely restricts their graze-able area.
I usually put the cows away in a "barn setting." Occasionally, though, I've had to leave them out in the field for a night. Sometimes we go out and get back very late, for example. They've been totally fine every time. the chain is pliable and large enough to prevent them from getting it wrapped around their legs. They can lie down and get up at will with zero issues.
Ah - but what about water?
|Brisket grazing in a shaded glen, with 10+ gallons of water water well within reach.|
|My T-post tools. Left, the driver. Right, the puller.|
These both store in the cow cart for super-easy transport.
|Brisket tethered in the foreground, and Bridget tethered in the background.|
See his chain?