Alternate to Continuous grazing, Rotational grazing is a more productive way of grazing livestock.
Now what exactly it requires?
How beneficial it’s for the growth of the pasture?

Cattle grazing isn’t that simple as we see in beautiful images of large pastures consumed by Sheep.

Definition:

In Rotational grazing, pasture is divided as Paddocks(portions of pasture) to allow one part of the land for re-growth while the other part is used for grazing. The livestock is further regularly moved amongst these paddocks.
Cattle Rotational grazing is mostly considered to have broader aspects of intending to improve the sustainability of forages productively and efficiently.

rotational grazing
Rotational Grazing

How Rotational grazing is different from continuous grazing?

Continuous grazing is a comfortable way of grazing your cattle as it doesn’t follow day to day management of the pasture involving longer grazing periods.
This process is used mostly when pasture is large and the forage is ample enough to feed limited livestock.

But opposing this method, Rotational grazing is an efficient form of cattle grazing looking into the concerns of the pasture and its growth.
This system requires attention and care to the grazing process while keeping the portions of the pasture to grow again for the recovery of its health and nutrition.

This is done in rotations after examining the grasses and their requirements. However, in this method, strong fencing around the boundaries of the grazing area is required.
Rotational grazing helps you in following a systematic grazing method that can be executed for farmers with limited pasture and an increasing herd.

How rotational grazing system works?

Well, plants too have life. Consistent and intense grazing can lead to several disadvantages affecting the growth of the forage. Once eaten by the livestock it takes enough time for the grasses to rebound.
Also, remember what the livestock eat affects the ultimate product.
Let’s understand the process of rotational grazing one by one.

The cattle should be processed in such a way that their movement in the pasture amongst the paddocks should be of every two days, week or month.

  • Before rotational grazing, understand the season and the adaptability of the grasses. Analyze their growing process and the time it needs to develop after enough grazing. Skipping this can affect the re-growing period.
  • Fencing is another step that should be done prior. This will help in dividing the pasture while resisting the cattle to pass the grazing area. Using a portable or temporary fencing can be more efficient as you can reuse it when the cattle are moved to other paddocks.
  • The cost of rotational grazing needs special attention as there are crucial establishments that needed to be maintained. Other than fencing, the owner must also ensure a safe place within the pasture premise where the livestock can be huddled in case of any emergency like heavy rain, storm, etc.
  • Don’t allow grazing once the paddock is half-eaten. It’s about not allowing the livestock to eat grasses below three inches. Forage require to be at least 5 inches for proper photosynthesis process. therefore, move the herd to the neighboring paddock once they are half-finished.
  • Resting period amidst the Rotational grazing ensures the health and the growth of the plants. These resting periods should be organized after a thorough understanding of the pasture and its seasonal growth. Maintain a systematic resting period after grazing. This will allow the grasses to grow for the next residency period.
  • The residency period is the crucial part that determines the balance of the grazing. The amount of forage consumed by the livestock should be equal to the amount of grass in the pasture. On the other hand, the grazing period should allow enough time for the harvesting of the new forage as well.
grazing
Grazing

Benefits of rotational grazing:

Rotational grazing is mainly about having a controlled grazing process. Other than delivering good health to the livestock, and specifically to the plants, it also has greater benefits environmentally and economically.
Below are some of the major benefits of the rotational grazing system.

Increased potential of plants

The nutrition that a pasture offers to your livestock has immense potential, but not necessarily if the maintenance is tempered by an irregular grazing process.
With rotational grazing, the value of the pasture is taken under immense consideration as it is directly affecting the health of the livestock.
This type of grazing will allow the pasture enough time to grow which is mostly unable to obtain with regular grazing. This ultimately will increase the potential of the pasture in many ways.

Improvement of soil

Grazing in proper intervals will help in providing a moderate amount of manure to the pasture through livestock.
This will increase the organic efficiency of the soil.
Plants that had to face overgrazing get nourishment through the soil that has absorbed the manure.
A healthy soil generates ample nutrients necessary for the growth of the grasses. It leads further to the health of the livestock.

Organized grazing

Grazing and managing the livestock can turn a little difficult when it needs to be conducted properly.
Rather than simply leaving the livestock to graze around, Rotational grazing gives you the choice to let them stay in a limited boundary. The fences around will ensure the herd to wander within its limit.
It’s easy as once the paddock is half consumed, opening up the fence for other portions will help in better handling of the herd.

Maintaining a clean pasture

Too much time spent on the grazing area by the cattle can leave footmarks ruining the grasses severely. However it’s certain for them to grow again, the manure and urine can generate too much waste on the pasture. Some edible plants can get affected by this process.
Here, through rotational grazing, less time spent on one portion allows less amount of waste on the forage. Overly dispatch of waste can indirectly affect the land in many ways leading to the lack of proper growth in the pasture.

Selecting the right plants for consumption

When the pasture is subdivided into portions, the cattle are urged to wander in a limited place or zone due to fencing.
The provided area may not necessarily involve all plants with nutritional values. This is where the livestock can go selective with its food.
The livestock is mostly selective while grazing but with large pastures, they tend to eat up everything that comes their way. A paddock area will urge the cattle to choose the most nutritious ones for consumption providing a healthy intake of plants.

Saving of forage

A large pasture is eaten uncontrollably by sheep or the livestock when left wandering. Though it’s a part of continuous grazing and it has its relevance, Rotational grazing is extremely helpful for farmers who are looking forward to keeping the grasses for future use.
This could be for many reasons like saving for the winter or keeping the better quality forage for breeds who need the most.
For instance, in the case of sheep or goats, the breeds used for meat and dairy need specific grasses essential for their nurturing.
Grazing the cattle at a normal pasture will help in saving the better forage for the more needy breeds.

Observing the animal health

Whether you are new or a professional into grazing, it’s always an opportunity to learn and assess the behavior of your herd.
With rotational grazing, the paddocks keep changing exposing the livestock to new lands. There are chances that the animals may not necessarily adapt to new plants.
This can cause reactions and opportunities for you to observe their behavioral pattern and health issues. This way you can also analyze which one among the herd is slow and unhealthy.
Some grasses can develop parasite threats too. This can affect weak animals in the herd. Taking precautions before those get infected will help in better growth.
Rotational grazing can be an aid to understanding the behavior of animals to figure out such cases.

Seasonal plants

Not every portion of the pasture reacts the same way. Every plant has its behavior and functioning just like animals.
Seeing this as an opportunity rather than a problem can help you be more productive. Due to the system of Rotational grazing, distributing the pasture in portions can help you divide the land-based on plants that have a seasonal impact.
You can have the choice to leave a particular paddock that has reliable plants that grow in winters. Meanwhile, you can use the paddock that thrives in the current season. This will save forage for the coming season when there will be a lack of relevant plants in the pasture.

Conclusion

It depends upon the owner on how he or she prefers to graze the livestock. Although continuous grazing is helpful, Rotational grazing does give ample options and a systematic process of managing the herd.
There’s no doubt with all the above-mentioned advantages the Rotational grazing system is a productive and reliable method for grazing in the limited pasture.

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About the Author

I have been raising farm animals for the past 15 years. I will be sharing my knowledge and what I have learned all these years.

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