To produce good livestock feed from pasture, good pasture management is essential. Through effectively managing pastures through rotational grazing, grazier reduce several production risks, including uneven fertility, weed issues, and erosion problems. Lack of management can make pastures a poor forage source, increasing the need for purchased feed.
Under rotational grazing, only one portion of pasture is grazed at a time while the remainder of the pasture “rests.” To accomplish this, pastures are subdivided into smaller areas (referred to as paddocks) and livestock are moved from one paddock to another. Resting grazed paddocks allows forage plants to renew energy reserves, rebuild vigor, deepen their root system, and give long-term maximum production.
For rotational grazing to be successful, the timing of rotations must be adjusted to the growth stage of the forage. Unfortunately, rotational grazing is often reduced to regular animal shifts from paddock to paddock based on rigid time schedules rather than in response to forage growth rate. Rigid schedules reduce the benefit of rotational grazing.
Management intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) is a style of rotational grazing that involves a higher level of management with greater paddock numbers, shorter grazing periods, and longer rest periods. Generally, more intense management results in greater livestock production per acre.
Understanding of the following topics contribute to the development of an effective rotational grazing system:
Plant yield and quality
Grass and legume growth patterns
Seasonal growth patterns and managing for uniform growth
Characteristics of forage grasses and legumes
Length of grazing and rest periods
Estimating forage yield
Establishing a forage chain
(Content adapted from “Pastures for profit: A guide to rotational grazing”, Undersander et al., UW Extension Publication A3529)