Cattle Grazing

Grazing Management — Increasing Forage Production

Grazing Styles

Continuous grazing is when livestock have access to the entire forage system at all times. Continuous is by far the easiest system to manage and requires less initial inputs but could have costly impacts. Rotational grazing, or allowing livestock to only access part of a forage system at a time, does require more inputs like fences, water, feed bunks, man power, management decisions, etc. However, rotational has the potential to increase forage production (by almost doubling lbs per acre) , increase nutrient distribution, reduce overgrazing, and allow for increased stocking rates. Switching to a rotational grazing system could potentially reduce supplemental feed costs, reduce the need for fertilizer, increase desirable forage growth while suppressing growth of weeds, and allow ranch managers to inspect the herd more often for possible health problems which could increase herd health.

     So how do you switch from a continuous grazing style to rotational?

Easy, come up with a plan first.

Plan First

Your plan should include the cost of additional fencing (permanent or temporary), additional feed/water troughs, as well as the number of livestock in the system. Next, determine how you will design your paddocks, how big they will be, and how long livestock will stay in one area. Most grasses do well with 21 days of rest after being grazed to the recommended stubble height. The recommended stubble height for Bahia is 2 inches and Bermuda is 3-4 inches.

Pasture Designs

With permanent or temporary fencing
This depicts grazing style with a pond in the center and paddocks surrounding the pond, each having access to the watering source. There are 12 paddocks and cattle would spend 2 days in each, giving 24 days of rest between each grazing event.

This style is centered around a pond or watering source. This will eliminate having to purchase separate watering devices for each paddock. The red lines depict gates. Cattle would spend 2 days or so in each paddock, leaving 22 days rest period.

This picture consists of 25 evenly spaced blocks representing a paddock. Cattle would spend 1 day in each block, leaving 25 days of rest between grazing events.

This style requires the most inputs as each paddock would need a watering system. Yellow lines could represent permanent or temporary fencing. Cattle would spend 1 day in each paddock, leaving 24 days of rest between grazing events.

A rectangular shape showing the progressive movement forward of livestock using only one temporary fence to restrict their access to new forage.

In order to use less inputs, you could use a style similar to this. The black represents permanent fencing, the yellow, temporary fencing. Livestock start on one side and you move the temporary fencing forward every so often. Once livestock reach the end of the pasture, you bring them back to the front and start over. In the end this is less effective since livestock still have access to previously grazed land. This does not allow for a true rest period.

With Multiple Grazing Species
Depicts grazing different types of livestock one after another in a pasture in order to allow for rest and breaking up of parasite life cycles.

Have multiple types of livestock? Help break up parasite life cycles by grazing one species after the other. The rest period in between will lower the viable egg count and will allow the grass time for regrowth.

With Corrals
This picture depicts a four quadrant system with a corral in the center. In the center of the corral is a watering trough.

This style incorporates a corral and watering system in the middle of the grazing system. Cattle would spend around 7 days in each quadrant, giving you about 21 days of rest between grazing events. This would also be perfect for an equine system, eliminate the cross fence in the corral and you have a riding arena as well.

This grazing system also incorporates a corral and watering trough but also has a cattle chute coming off of the corral for easy working/loading.

This grazing system also incorporates a corral and watering trough but also has a cattle chute for easy working/loading.

 

 

There are many types of grazing management systems and not every one will work in every ranch situation. The main limiting factors are budget and man power, both of which are hard to over come. Contact me to talk about possible options for your operation that can increase the production of your herd and in turn increase your profits! More info here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag268