The ABC’s of Managed Grazing… a Learner’s Primer

May 12, 2016

The Basics

  • Understand the history of grazing
  • Learn how to manage a pasture using the 4 R’s
  • Learn forage and harmful weed varieties
  • Learn to set up an electric line fence

Grazing Terminology

Foraging
is searching for and exploiting food resources. It affects an animal's fitness because it plays an important role in an animal's ability to survive and reproduce
Frequency of Grazing: How many times a plant is grazed in a growing season (one time is optimal)
Intensity of Grazing: How long an animal grazes in a specific location

  • Organic : Grown or raised without the use of antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, or other synthetic chemicals and using organic matter building protocols
  • Overgrazing : Occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods
  • Pasture Raised : General term for any animal that rarely sees confinement

Rotational Grazing is the division of pastures into units for grazing in sequence throughout the grazing period. Utilizing rotational grazing can improve livestock distribution while incorporating rest period for new forage

Sustainability happens by leaving resources, including the land, in a productive state going into the future. Meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations needs

Warm season - A plant that exhibits optimum growth during summer months

Winter annual - A plant that establishes from seed, grows, sets seed and dies in one growing season beginning with germination in the fall and dying in the spring/summer

History of Grazing

  • The history of grazing started with man’s evolution. The animals roamed and grazed on the land free. Man hunted and ate the animals to stay alive
  • Humans domesticated animals by gathering them into herds using dogs in a tribal or nomadic way
  • Penning them up in corrals and pastures allowed easy use for milk and meat                                                  

Forage Plants
The purpose of establishing forages is to establish adapted and compatible species and varieties of cool season grasses and legumes to :

  • Improve or maintain forage protein content
  • Improve or maintain digestibility and palatability
  • Eliminate need for nitrogen fertilizer
  • Provide better seasonal distribution of forage
  • Improve animal performance The goal is also to supplement livestock operation during periods when lean forages are either dormant or have decreased growth because of unfavorable weather conditions

Pasture Plants : Broadleaf, Grass and Legumes

Types of Grazing

  • Open Pastures
  • Rotational/Strip
  • Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG)

Open Pasture

  • Animals are left in one location
  • Uneven grazing is common due to concentration of livestock around watering and feeding areas
  • Strong fences surround the area with no need for movable electrical fencing

Rotational Grazing

  • Pasture land is split into multiple paddocks to allow for rest and rotation. The sacrifice area provides shelter from the weather & insects; and can provide outdoor access when time on pasture should be limited
  • Permanent fencing separates paddocks

Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing

  • Strip grazing places animals on a strip of land that is sectioned off by temporary electric fencing. The  size of the strip that is allocated to livestock depends on available forage and on the size of your herd
  • The size of the strips your animals are grazing is always subject to change throughout the grazing season

MANAGED INTENSIVE ROTATIONAL GRAZING (MIRG)

  • MIRG is commonly known by several names, including Intensive Cell grazing, Mob Grazing, or High Density Grazing
  • The herds graze one portion of pasture while allowing the others to recover. Resting grazed lands allows the vegetation to renew energy reserves and deepen root systems, with the result being long-term maximum biomass production
  • An optimal pasture should contain several types of forage plants that are nutritious for cattle. MIRG is   a grazing practice that is quickly gaining popularity in the grass-fed, naturally-raised livestock sector of raising livestock, primarily with cattle, but also with sheep, goats, poultry, and even horses

Shelters

An older barn can be an asset or a liability depending on its condition. Old farm buildings of the countryside contribute to the landscape & history of the farmstead; they can show the agricultural methods, building materials, and skills that were used. However, they may require restoration to be safe and useable

Grazing animals, overall, have less need for shelter than has been assumed in the past. As long as forage, water, and mineral is available, shelters can be temporary and cheap if need be

Pole barns are more typical of modern building styles. They are usually cheaper to build and maintain than older barns. But, they are unlikely to last as long as the strongly built barns of yesterday!

NEXT MONTH, WE’LL LOOK AT HOW TO

  • Manage a pasture using the 4 R’s
  • Learn forage and harmful weed varieties
  • Learn to set up an electric line fence  




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