Planning and executing good grazing strategies are the backbone of successful livestock farming in Australia - or anywhere else for that matter. Whether you manage cattle, sheep, or goats , finding effective methods to optimise grazing practices is important. From continuous grazing to rotational systems, each grazing strategy affects your farming income, sustainability, and soil health.
As you’re already aware, there isn’t always one grazing strategy to use. In fact, many graziers practise tactical farming. Tactical farming involves the use of multiple grazing techniques throughout the year or years to adapt to seasonal variances and individual circumstances When done well, feed supply and livestock demands are balanced for growth rate, reproduction and maintenance. (Meat & Livestock Australia).
What You’ll Learn in this Guide
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll get an overview of different types of grazing strategies that exist for livestock farming. You’ll also learn about the various benefits of choosing a better grazing strategy that reflects the needs of your grazing business, as well as the challenges of implementing one.
Lastly, you’ll learn why you should consider using a grazing management software such as MaiaGrazing to help you get the best results from your grazing practices.
Types of Grazing Strategies
Livestock grazing involves diverse approaches, and each of these affects pasture health and animal productivity. Here are different methods of grazing:
Continuous grazing, while traditional, involves animals having access to a pasture for extended periods. However, this method can lead to uneven forage utilisation and overgrazing. Unfortunately, overgrazing negatively impacts pasture health and animal nutrition.
Set stocking also allows your livestock continuous access to a pasture without rotation or movement, which requires careful monitoring to prevent overgrazing. With this method, it's important to carefully calculate your stocking rate. You might even need supplement feeding to account for seasonal imbalances.
Rotational grazing divides pastures into smaller sections called ‘subdivisions’. These smaller sections of pasture are then periodically rotated to allow rest and regrowth. Grazing strategies such as block grazing, cell grazing, and strip grazing fall under this category.
Typically, methods under ‘rotational grazing’ can enhance forage utilisation and soil health on your land when applied correctly.
Management Intensive Grazing
This grazing method involves frequent movement of livestock to optimise forage consumption while preventing overgrazing. Systems like Voisin grazing and the Acocks system focus on close management, encouraging both pasture and animal health.
Voisin grazing focuses on specific grazing and resting periods. This is carefully planned to optimise both pasture recovery and livestock nutrition.
Mob grazing puts a large number of grazing animals in smaller areas for short amounts of time, promoting soil health and regrowth. Techniques like crash grazing align with this specific approach, which encourages better use of your land.
Crash grazing is a bit like a quick feast for your animals. It's when you place them in a small area for a very short time. The area is grazed intensely, and then they move on.
This grazing technique promotes soil health, and allows plants to regenerate better by not having extended animal impact and stress from overgrazing...
Planned Grazing Techniques
Planned grazing techniques, such as the Merrill system or precision grazing, involve detailed planning. You’ll need to balance grazing and resting periods so you get the most out of both pasture and livestock health.
Deferred grazing allows pastures to reach a growth stage that is “just right” before animal grazing happens. This means you get better forage quality and quantity. This grazing technique requires careful timing and monitoring to maximise pasture productivity.
Cell grazing is a grazing strategy that promotes even forage utilisation by rotating animals through smaller paddocks. In turn, it helps with pasture recovery while maintaining adequate feed for livestock on your farm.
Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing
Adaptive multi-paddock grazing means you will adjust livestock movement based on real-time pasture conditions. The result of this is you ensure the best rate of forage utilisation while preventing overgrazing and soil degradation.
High-Density Short Duration Grazing
High-density short duration grazing involves intense grazing pressure within small timeframes. This grazing strategy stimulates rapid plant growth and soil improvement on your land, which then increases forage availability.
Ultra-high-density grazing involves very high animal concentrations for extremely short periods, maximising nutritious forage consumption and aiding in pasture improvement.
Rotational Grazing Paddock Design
Effective paddock design for rotational grazing includes planning layouts that encourage efficient grazing patterns and facilitate rest and recovery periods for pasture areas.
Rotational resting strategically allows portions of pastures to have a break from grazing. This promotes vegetation regrowth, maintains biodiversity, and prevents soil erosion.
High-Intensity Low-Frequency Grazing
High-intensity low-frequency grazing involves short, intense grazing periods followed by long rest periods. This grazing strategy maximises forage utilisation while allowing pastures ample time to recover.
High-performance grazing focuses on maximising livestock performance through strategic grazing practices, ensuring optimal nutrition while maintaining pasture health.
High-utilisation grazing emphasises maximising forage consumption by livestock, optimising the use of available pasture resources for improved livestock nutrition.
The Howell system is a planned grazing technique that involves monitoring and managing your livestock’s movements to achieve desired grazing and rest periods for pastures.
Multi-camp grazing involves rotating groups of livestock among various camps or paddocks, ensuring even forage utilisation and preventing pasture degradation.
Non-selective grazing involves livestock consuming available forage without preference, helping control unwanted vegetation and promoting diverse pasture growth.
Savory Grazing Method
The Savory grazing method focuses on mimicking natural grazing patterns. This involves strategic livestock movement to regenerate pastures and improve soil health.
Strip grazing involves providing your livestock access to narrow strips of pasture sequentially, ensuring efficient forage utilisation and preventing wastage.
Time-controlled grazing involves precisely timed grazing periods to manage forage growth. This results in your livestock having optimal nutrition whilst maintaining pasture health.
Pasture topping involves cutting or trimming tall vegetation to encourage new growth and maintain pasture quality, commonly done using mowers or specialised equipment.
As you can see, there is a diverse range of grazing strategies that exist, each applicable interchangeably. Given the unique nature of each grazing operation, the key lies in careful observation and assessment to determine the most suitable strategies for specific situations before making informed decisions.
Benefits and Challenges of Managing Grazing Strategies
Each grazing strategy offers distinct advantages and challenges. And while sustainable grazing strategies like rotational grazing are well-documented as proven methods that can enhance pasture quality and animal health, challenges can still persist. After all, you can’t control the weather or market conditions.
Thankfully, there are tools today like MaiaGrazing that can help you with planning and improving your farm’s resilience while managing the risks associated with these inevitable challenges.
Driving Profit and Sustainability with Grazing Management
Balancing profitability and building land sustainability can at times feel like you’re walking on a tightrope. Efficient grazing management directly impacts farm productivity and soil health, contributing to long-term sustainability.
Putting it into Action
Implementing effective grazing strategies requires experience, knowledge, and the right tools. Grazing management tools can aid you in optimising grazing practices, maximising profitability, and enhancing soil health to build soil carbon.
MaiaGrazing offers insights into the best grazing strategies, tailored to the needs of your individual farm. It also will help you to:
- Maximise your livestock’s potential
- Boost carrying capacity of your land
- Optimise paddock yield
- Minimise feeding costs
- Capture data for seasonal planning and adjustment
- Manage your grazing to build and retain soil carbon