Determining which type of cow is most suited for grass-only-dairying can be a daunting task. I spent several years studying the performance of cattle on pasture with high percentages of legumes at varying stocking rates and differing grazing management options. In all the of it, we found that under the right conditions cattle can consume upwards of 3.5% of their body weight in forage on pasture. There are several attributes in management to achieve this goal. Firstly, the forage or sward presented to the cattle has to be easily grazed – so a minimum of 8″ for forage height to 16″ appeared ideal. Under these conditions cattle would graze as little as 6 hours a day and spend the remaining 18 hours resting and gaining weight. We found that biting rates on pasture would be 28 to 30 per minute. As soon as the forage availability or quality was lower, cattle would compensate by chewing faster (increased bite rate) and then increasing time spent grazing. There was certain style or type about the cattle that performed best in this environment.
OPEN HEART, DEEP BODY, WIDE BACK, GOOD MUSCULARITY, GOOD FEET AND LEGS, MEDIUM STATURE and WIDE MUZZLE
Historically when looking at the Fleckvieh breed and its origins…the original focus was on forage and conditions where animals had to be durable in a grazing/forage based environment. I believe that is some of the reason why these animals lend themselves so well to grazing. Dairy cows specifically from Upper Bavaria had to be most suited to this type of management. Concentrates were more expensive to bring into Alpine Regions and breeders of cattle relied on forages and the functionality of their cows to be able to harvest and utilize forage effectively.
So when looking at selecting bulls for grazing, look for moderate frame, good feet and legs, muscularity and udder scores over 105 – and cows that will be wide, long and deep in their body type. Some pillars to this style of cow within the breed would be derived from sires like Enrico, Round Up, Rotwild, Wildbad, Passion, Passau. We have also seen good success with Zasport.