Spring into rotational grazing

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Beef cattle grazing

Pasture programs that are well managed can be the most economical way to ensure forages for your herd.

Rotational grazing is a good practice for any type of livestock that will be consuming forages. For this practice to be successful knowing your plants, animals and soil on your farm is crucial. When you have a better understanding you are able to identify and respond to each one of their needs.

What is Rotational Grazing?

Rotational Grazing is a practice where only one portion of pasture is grazed at a time. Livestock are moved to fresh paddocks using short grazing periods usually between 2-6 days. This will create an even distribution of grazing throughout the paddock and allows the previously grazed areas to regenerate and maintain its health.

Timing of rotations should be adjusted to the growth of your forages. When rotations are based on the forage’s condition you will see the full benefit from this practice. Your pastures will be at their maximum production and will allow 30-70 percent more stock on the same amount of acreage.

Benefits:

  • Less wasting of forages- With smaller paddocks animals are limited to the forage they have access to which leads to more evenly distributed grazing.
  • Limited soil compaction- Fewer days in the same paddock will result in less soil compaction and fewer livestock trails.
  • Increased soil fertility- Because of limited space each paddock will gain evenly spread manure resulting in higher organic matter and more fertile soil.
  • Reduced weed pressure- Well managed pastures that are not overgrazed can prevent weeds from establishing.
  • Extended grazing season- Grazing through winter is possible due to shorter recovery periods for your forages.

Spring is the time for change

Spring is the most ideal time to make the change over to rotational grazing. During the spring grasses start to green up and began growing quickly making them tender and very palatable for livestock. If livestock are set free on an open pasture they will travel to the best tasting grass they can find and will trample less desired forages. This results in large amounts of wasted forages and stress for the more desired forages.

With rotational grazing livestock are limited to the forages they have access to creating an even distribution of grazing.

What to do this winter

Winter months are a perfect time to be planning and designing ways to implement rotational grazing onto your farm. There are three big areas when it comes to rotational grazing and those are: Determining size and number of paddocks, type of fencing, and watering systems.

Implementing this practice onto your farm takes time and thought but is very achievable.
This winter visit your local Soil and Water Conservation District, they will be able to provide assistance or answer any questions you may have.

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Matt Stooksbury is the Agriculture/Natural Resource Technician at Harrison Soil and Water Conservation District. He is a graduate of Wilmington College with a B.S. in Agronomy. He can be reached at 740-942-8837 or by emailing matt.stooksbury@hswcd.org.

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