Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Winter grazing with hay/silage  (Read 568 times)


  • Joined Jan 2021
Winter grazing with hay/silage
« on: September 02, 2021, 02:12:53 pm »
Does anyone winter their cattle without hay or silage? Iíve been reading about it but mostly in US climates, so wondered if anyone had tried it in the UK?


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Winter grazing with hay/silage
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2021, 05:05:07 pm »
You could probably do it if grazing very extensively I.e a few native type cattle over a vast amount of ground.


  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Winter grazing with hay/silage
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2021, 05:57:35 pm »
Yes 1 beast per 20 acre on hill ground with plenty of trees and gulleys to shelter in plus concentrates fed once per day . Highland bullocks not killed until 5yrold


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Winter grazing with hay/silage
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2021, 06:33:25 pm »
Does anyone winter their cattle without hay or silage? Iíve been reading about it but mostly in US climates, so wondered if anyone had tried it in the UK?

Can't help wondering why you would consider not feeding your cattle over winter? You must realise that grass essentially doesn't grow over winter? Even at 1 beast/20 acres as suggested that means you would need 100acres for just 5 cattle, and they would be pretty poor at the end of winter. I wouldn't have thought you would want to subject cattle that you cared for to have to scrat around for food for several months in order to just survive. :thinking:  They still need checking each day so that's a lot of running about, and hill land is most likely to have snow, so you'd end up carting them some forage anyway.
Easier and take a lot less time and effort to keep them close at hand and feed them.

As you mentioned, it is possible in the States in warmer areas and where there are vast expanses of grass. But really not recommended in this country. :sunshine:
« Last Edit: September 02, 2021, 06:44:52 pm by landroverroy »
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Winter grazing with hay/silage
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2021, 06:57:58 pm »
The highlanders were there to specifically eat rough grass to improve it for the sheep and were all bullocks so less bodily stresses , fed 2kg concs per day at the same time and place so easily checked 15 mins per day to feed /count /check then move on to feed hill ewes  , very little snow or frost but lots of rain so never needed forage , sold at 5yrs old to Morrisons for xmas  .  Yes a big hill area divided into 100ac areas with double barb wire  to confine cattle grazing areas and allow ewes to walk under wire


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Winter grazing with hay/silage
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2021, 10:10:18 pm »
If they can have some concentrates of some kind then, as shep53 says, it would be doable. 

On the upland farm in North Cumbria, we had a very wet, marshy 90-acre area just below the moorland line.  We kept 6-8 Blue Greys (extremely thrifty cows, Whitebred Shorthorn bull on a Galloway cow) up there year round with an Aberdeen Angus bull.  (Joined by some other cattle in summer, but just these over winter.)

The farm was on a Higher Level Stewardship scheme.  This area of nearly-moorland had to be kept sheep-free, the maximum cattle headage over winter was capped at 8, and we weren't allowed to feed concentrates there.   We could scatter hay or we could feed silage on the one bit of rocky ground within the area. 

First year we put a ring up there, on the spot allowed, and took them 2 days ration of loose silage every other day by tractor.  We didn't like that, the tractor going up there made too much mess of the ground.

Second year we made up packages of silage and took them up daily on the quad.  The quad damaged the ground less than the tractor, but with that ground and the weather up there, you really didn't want to have to travel the same bit of ground every day.  It could become impassable, even to an all-terrain quad, and then you couldn't feed your cattle. 

So we switched to scattering hay, which we could do in different places each day.  We liked that a lot better; the cattle moved about more and we could pick and vary our paths, and always get to give them their hay somewhere, no matter what the conditions.

Our other cattle were all sucklers, mainly dairy x Angus.  The dry cows were fed 1/2 small bay of hay a day each, or 22 cows would get one big bale of hay or silage a day.  Cows which were still lactating got half as much again.

The Blue Greys on the "fell", as this ground was called, got about 1/3 as much as the housed, larger dry cows - and they were outside, having to keep themselves warm. 

As an experiment one year, we housed one of the Blue Greys to see how she did.  Sweated and got fat, is what she did, lol.  We reckoned we would have had to feed her about half what the other dry cows were getting to stop her getting over-fat.

So my sums tell me that the outwintered cows were deriving enough food value from the moorland grasses etc to keep themselves warm and power their travels (work Doris wasn't doing inside) plus approx 1/6 of a ration.

They may well, at one small, thrifty, dry cow per 10 acres, have been able to get through a winter without any hay at all, and we did know one or two farms up above the moorland line who did outwinter Galloways and not feed them at all, but it was not how we would have wanted our livestock to be treated.

But... that's extreme farming up there.  If you had that sort of stocking density on culm grassland in Devon, it may well be more feasible (and not a welfare issue) with small, thrifty cattle. 

« Last Edit: September 02, 2021, 10:13:01 pm by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cattle and sheep!
Re: Winter grazing with hay/silage
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2021, 08:01:07 am »
My current 2 girls would cry! They like to be spoilt and no they aren't fat. Nothing like hearing a cow snoring its head off as I creep through the shed!

However, saying that, winter 2002 here was frozen snow and I put out 2 rings, due to ground being hard, didn't need to move them for a bit (it's when it all defrosts you make a mess!) Anyway, if I recall, each ring fed 18, in reality 6 as they all liked to spread out and we had 12 cows outside. 2 bales usually lasted 3 days. I don't think they came up for air!
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!


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