Now that the cows are out there grazing it's time to consider the rest of the nutritional requirements of the livestock. Take a sample of the forage the animals are eating and have it tested to see what they are getting from it. Get the advice of a good nutritional consultant, and get free choice salt and mineral in front of them in the paddocks. We move our mineral feeder right along from one paddock to the next with the cattle and their water tank. Don't forget the selenium, Indiana is a selenium deficient area. Our mineral mix uses dical, bio phos, mag ox, a selenium premix and a trace mineral premix. Talk to your nutritionist for the right mix for you. We save considerable money by buying these base ingredients and mixing our own minerals .We have a scale and a small cement mixer with an electric motor to mix our minerals.
Be sure to walk all your paddocks every 10 days, so you keep track of what is growing. If you think of a scale from 1-10, with 1 being bare ground, and 10 being grass 10" tall, you can begin to keep track of the amount of grass that is on your farm. You need to keep the grass in the vegetative stage so don't let any grass head out. Try to pasture when the grass is 6"-8" tall. If you get too many paddocks at that height all at once it's time to make some hay on a few of them to keep them in the right stage of growth for the next round. Remember the grass will slow down as moisture gets short, or heat units build up. If your saying "hey this is getting complicated," it is but, remember it's only brain power, and not costly horsepower your using.
Try not to graze your paddocks as close as you would mow them to make hay. A plant recovers faster if there is still some leaf surface left after grazing. Since livestock don't graze every plant the same you will notice that pastures recover faster than a hay field. If you see some weeds or grass which is missed after the first couple of rounds, it might be necessary to clip the paddock, but don't clip too low, just take the tops off the missed plants. Remember the idea is to keep the grass and weeds from heading out, that way they will stay more vegetative and and the cattle eat them better.
In May you may be on a 10-14 day rotation schedule, but as the summer progresses you can lengthen that schedule to 20-30 days, depending on how fast the forage is regrowing. Don't forget that every 10 day walk, so you know what is growing out there. Carry a note book and number each paddock and write down how high the grass is in each, use the 1-10 scale.
If you have legumes in your paddocks bloat will be your first concern. There are several ways to handle it. The easiest would be to use a polywire (called a break wire), and give the livestock a very small portion of the paddock (standing room only) , this will cause them to eat the entire plant and not just the tops and leaves. After they graze that small portion down have another break wire set up about the same area and then remove the first. Reinstall the first break wire in the ungrazed area and continue to watch the livestock for signs of bloat. As long as there is no bloat, continue to advance them across the rest of the paddock until they begin to lay down to chew their cud. Once they begin this, wait a couple of hours before you give them any more of the paddock. There's no reason to let them lay on ungrazed pasture. Granted, this will take a little time, but time is only valuable if you have something more important than your livestock. Save your grass paddocks for evening, or when you will be away.
If your grazing dairy cows, it is essential that you have water in the paddocks. If your not ready to install a permanent system at least plan it on paper before you build any permanent fence, you can lay pipe on the ground to start. Be sure the cattle will have access to water when they first enter a paddock and try to make each coupling, supply as many paddocks as possible with one garden hose. Be sure to select a pipe size which will supply adequate volume and pressure for the number of cows you expect to graze . Usually the additional cost of purchasing the next size larger pipe can be justifyed over the life of the system.
I've had some questions about our water tanks. We use hard plastic tanks 2x2x4 which hold about 100 gal. The actual capacity is reduced to about 75 gallons after the float is installed. One tank will supply 150 head in the paddock. They are easy to dump to move to the next paddock and they only weigh about 35 lbs. so you can move them easily. I use a Hudson full flow float. I drill a hole near the top of the tank and permanently install the float with schedule 80 threaded plastic pipe fittings and add a garden hose to complete the system. There are smaller tanks one the market if your herd is smaller.
Since your walking your paddocks every 10 days and keeping a log of the amount of grass in each, you should have a lot of numbers from 1-10. Average the number in each paddock at the end of each walk to see what the average number is for the whole farm. Is it higher or lower than the last walk? If it's getting high make more hay, if it's getting low, slow down your rotation and limit feed a little hay out in the paddock. Scatter the bales along the fence or under a breakwire so they don't make a mess of it. If it sounds like a lot of walking, it is, but your always close to the livestock so you can be checking heats, and becoming a good stockman.