Grazing Strategies 2011
Apr 02, 2011
GRAZING STRATEGIES 2011
When grazing pressure is similar, your cattle’s performance under different grazing systems is generally unchanged at moderate stocking rates. Stocking rate and livestock distribution are much more important than rotation in determining the success of your grazing system(s). Regardless of the grazing strategy, research and long-term observations show that cattle and forage productivity will be best maintained by stocking rates that achieve not more than 40-50% utilization during the growing season every season.
Of course this will vary based off of where your farm/ranch/range land is located throughout the country or world. Even in the same township or county grazing strategies can vary widely depending on type of cattle, soil type and planted or native forages available for grazing. In our area just walking across the road is like moving across the country. Forages and more importantly soil composition for supporting your forages will depend on your past farming practices. If you purchase a farm or rent land that hasn’t been properly maintained, it’s going to take you longer to establish viable forages to sustain your cattle. This may not happen over night folk’s! It could take 1-4 years to build some life back into these soils. Grazing isn’t just the cattle eating the forages and moving on so the forages can or will hopefully re-grow. You need to have a cycle of life underground to support life on top of the grass.
Your grazing strategy for a specific area/pasture/paddock is as important as your cattle’s consumption over the entire season. Unequal distribution of grazing on "preferred" species of forages or preferred areas within your pastures can cause overgrazing while other species or sites are under grazed and will promote weed competition which could in the long run take over portions of your pastures you worked so hard to create.
When stocking rates of your cattle are properly controlled, season-long/continuous grazing improves or maintains desirable forages and most importantly meets your cattle’s nutritional needs. Continuous grazing can be especially beneficial for the special growth requirements of replacement heifers that must reach puberty at 12 to 13 months of age if they are to calve as two-year-olds. A different pasture could be used for replacement heifers each year if your operation has additional space. The potential for rotational grazing problems to occur under season-long continuous grazing increases with the diversity of forage species, and topography of your pastures.
Seasonal suitability of forage resources.
This concept may apply to capitalizing on cool-season annuals, seeded pastures and utilizing perennial cool- or warm-season forages in mixed native pastures. Where favorable plant growing conditions frequently occur for extended periods of time, intensive-early stocked grazing programs have produced increases in production per acre. Using this method, a pasture would be stocked with 2-3 times as many animal units (MOB Grazing), but grazed only during the first half of the growing season. Than allowing the forages to re-grow throughout the remainder of the season so as to "Stockpile" the forages for the coming winter months when forage growth has stopped in your rotational pastures. That way you won’t need to feed dry hay to your cattle except during the optimal "120 Day’s" of winter feeding.
Clearly, no one system of grazing management is likely to be superior to all others, in fact, the utilization of a number of different grazing practices, each appropriate for a specific location or class of cattle, type of forage available, and/or time of year will be uniquely different and most efficient on an individual farm/ranch’s basis. When multiple pastures/paddocks are involved in a rotational grazing strategy, the best approach appears to be the use of flexible scheduling. Which means, plan on having to spend a lot of time experimenting if this is your first season setting up a rotational grazing strategy. You’ll be moving quite a bit of fence until your perfect your rotational timing. Base the time of use on the availability and quality of your forages, frequency or level of your cattle’s utilization on key species of forages or areas within each paddock, and/or residual "plant/weed left-over’s" as determined by your cattle. Remember, if this is your first season developing a rotational grazing plan/strategy, allow time to watch and learn from your cattle! The entire reason for developing a rotational grazing strategy is to make your cattle work for you, not you working for your cattle.