Rotational grazing is the process of dividing your pasture into sections and rotating your livestock to graze smaller sections over a short period of time. This process is unlike continual grazing, where livestock are left in a specific area to graze the plants for a long period of time, with no rest to the plants. Rotational grazing has many benefits to your pasture quality, soil health, and the animal health. Pastures are often divided into smaller areas, referred to as paddocks. The time you have your livestock in each paddock varies by the size of the herd, the quality of the pasture, types of grass, your schedule, etc. A recovery period for cool season forages (oats, cereal rye, wheat, brassicas) would be 3-5 weeks on average. Warm season forages have a recovery period of 4-5 weeks on average. This means you would need to keep your livestock from returning to the same paddock for at least 21 days for cool season forages. Depending on how many paddocks you can separate your pasture into, this can be a simple or difficult task.
Rotational grazing helps control soil erosion. It also helps increase soil structure, increases soil ground cover, and increases drought resilience. Grazing encourages plants to send out more and deeper roots. Those roots are continually sloughed off to decompose in the ground, amplifying soil biomass and fertility, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Rotational grazing helps improve the forage productivity and fertility, thus maximizing feed efficiency. Rotational grazing allows for manure distribution to be spread out more evenly as a source of nutrients to the soil. Maximizing the nutrimental content of the forage can increase weight gain and milk production of livestock. As livestock are handled more with rotational grazing, they can become tamer than those in a continual grazed pasture.
Rotational grazing comes with disadvantages. The cost of additional fencing to section out pasture, the time spent moving livestock, as well as providing water sources in each separate paddock are the main disadvantages of rotational grazing. There are temporary fencing and portable water tanks that do make rotational grazing easier and more cost efficient. A well-maintained rotational grazing system can increase production in forage by 30-70% on average. The increase in production can help offset the one time cost of additional fencing and water sources. When implemented efficiently, rotational grazing improves the quality of the soil, crop, and livestock.
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