Grazing management is another tool for maintaining soil nutrients is managing the landscape with livestock. Managing grazing can increase the health of a landscape enormously.
There are many types of grazing management being employed by farmers these days.
We hear of grazing management systems such as cell grazing, rotational grazing, planned grazing, ultra-high density grazing and strip grazing which all conjure up images of large mobs of cattle and sheep contained by one or two electric wires systematically moving through a number of paddocks commonly known as a „cell‟.
This type of management works well only if the livestock are correctly used as a tool to increase the ecological health of the paddock and it is a profitable exercise. The focus must be kept on the recovery rate not the amount of time allowed for grazing. There are some critical observations that have been made by successful farmers using grazing as a tool.
- Ground cover must be kept at all times
- Livestock should be moved on when the grass is no shorter than a beer can in height (Nigel Kerin)
- Livestock should only be moved into a paddock when the grass is at least 2 beer cans high (Nigel Kerin)
- A farmer should have a mob of sacrifice stock e.g. Some cattle farmers run with sheep but these are the 1st to go when times get tough. Others who love, say Angus, will also have a mob of Herefords, which are the 1st to go when times get tough.
- That means that instead of having a painful decision to make when the feed just isn‟t there – which inevitably happens – the decision is relatively easy.
- It also means that these farmers who look after their paddocks can keep going and paddocks quickly recover when good conditions return as opposed to the farmer who looks after his stock at the expense of the paddock.
In simple terms when the recovery of the pasture isn’t added to the equation overgrazing occurs. “If recovery isn‟t assessed, the stock may return to a paddock before it is ready to be re- grazed. There will be less feed in the paddock, which leads to a shorter graze and a shorter recovery period, and the stock end up moving around the cell faster and faster. Something has to give and it is usually animal performance and pasture quantity and quality (and a reduction in animal performance). Eventually the overall health of the farm declines and profits dry up.”*
* Ref: Richard Groom, PrincipleFocus