With Melanie Brown
Which grazing management style is best? According to the MLA, all of them! “Tactical grazing – the practice of using a range of grazing methods, through a single year or series of years, to meet different animal and pasture objectives at different times. Now recognised as the best grazing method.” In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution; grazing management decisions are best made through careful observation of the interactions between plants and animals over time, supported by knowledge of the landscape and local climate.
Depending on where you farm and what you’re trying to achieve, grazing management will look quite different. In this article we will cover some of the best approaches;
Resting a paddock allows plants time to replenish, restore their root reserves, reseed and stand up to future grazing pressure. On certain farms frequent mob movements are impractical, but pasture health is still best managed by strategically removing livestock from paddocks at key times. The best times to rest paddocks include: when desirable species are re-seeding to allow new seed to mature and drop; when heading into a low growth period (Summer or Winter depending on your location), when coming out of a dry spell so new growth can replenish root reserves before being grazed, or before a high-demand period such as lambing or calving. Resting can be achieved by destocking, agisting stock, or using sacrifice paddocks and supplementary feeding.
How often you rest paddocks will depend on your scale, management systems, lambing or calving dates, local climate and upcoming farm schedule. The key is to rest paddocks as often as you can (the MLA recommends every 3-4 years as a minimum), and to plan ahead to make sure it happens. This is where farm management software such as Mobble can help by keeping track of days grazed and rested for each paddock, as well as other useful information such as rainfall data, joining actions, and your upcoming planned tasks.
Rotational grazing is any grazing system where stock are regularly rotated between pastures, meaning paddocks get rested periodically throughout the year. Stock movements might occur on a regular schedule (i.e. every month or every few days), and this schedule is generally adjusted according to the season to account for variations in pasture growth rates.
Regularly moving livestock between paddocks is a fantastic way to control parasites and reduce the need for chemical drenching, because worm eggs that have been expelled by the livestock are less likely to be re-ingested as infective larvae once they hatch. Worm larvae are generally more common in the bottom 5 cm of pasture closest to the roots, so rotating stock regularly before they eat down to this level provides even less chance of reinfection.
Increases in pasture productivity and forage quality are the main benefit to rotational grazing. If stock are moved on from a paddock before they’ve consumed the majority of the leaf on each plant, the plant will still have enough leaf surface area available to photosynthesise and restore root energy reserves during the rest period. Stock also don’t get the chance to selectively overgraze the preferred species in the pasture meaning a more diverse species mix can be maintained long term.
Whether you’re on a set rotation schedule or moving stock according to your paddock observations, Mobble can assist with making the best decisions by keeping all the data you need accessible and in one place.
Cell grazing, mob grazing and holistic grazing are more intensive grazing management styles that have some common features: small paddocks, high stock densities, and frequent mob movements. Holistic Grazing Management (HGM) is a fast growing practice with exciting reports of improved productivity, animal health, system resilience and paddock biodiversity- for example see case study with Mobbler Susie Bate here.
Holistic grazing management generally involves careful planning using a grazing chart to account for a range of factors such as seasonal changes to pasture growth rates, rainfall, fluctuations in stocking rates and observations of system health over time. Developing your optimum grazing chart is best supported by completing a Holistic Planned Grazing course, and Mobble is a great tool to translate your grazing charts into action.
Planning ahead and then taking time to look back and make changes are the keys to success with these grazing styles. This means scheduling and communicating tasks to the whole team in advance, as well as making sure everyone on-farm is keeping accurate records so you can go back and analyse, reflect and adjust for the future.
Susie Bates advice on getting started in grazing management - “Do a good grazing management course and download Mobble"
Regardless of your grazing management style, Mobble is here to help. Our mission is to keep things simple and flexible so you can find the flow on your farm and make easy, data-driven decisions for healthy pasture and healthy animals. If you’d like to book a session to discuss how best to use Mobble at your place, you can book in a time that works for you here or start a free 21 day trial of Mobble here.
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