Will I benefit by doing a grazing plan?
Yes definitely. A grazing plan will allow you to stop overgrazing. As this happens your plants & land (ecosystem building blocks) will become healthier. Healthier land will result in increased production from a set land base. You will also benefit in being more resilient in the face of drought or excess rain. If you are serious about doing the best possible job of managing your land a grazing plan is essential. The planned grazing process is designed to deal with all the variables that affect grazing. It does this by dealing with the variables one at a time & not omitting any of them. Our human mind cannot deal with that many variables at one time. The other thing about planned grazing is that it is based on & allows you to achieve your future landscape description. It is impossible to do all this in your head or in your handy dandy pocket book.
What does the term recovery period refer to?
The recovery period is the number of days between grazings. The recovery period is the single most important point in planned grazing. It is essential that plants have fully recovered from the previous graze before being grazed a second time. The best indicator that plants have fully recovered is that the plants are ready to flower. At this stage of growth the root supplies are fully replenished. Grazing at this stage is beneficial to both the plants & the soil. The recovery period will vary depending on growing conditions. A good recommendation is to have a recovery period of between 60 to 90 days. My personal experience has been that the results will be more satisfying as you move closer to 90 days. In some areas it may be best to graze only once during the growing season. In this case you would have a recovery of 100 plus days. It is important to remember that there is no advantage in going past full recovery. Once plants are fully recovered photosynthesis slows or stops. When this occurs the plants are no longer capturing solar energy. At this point plants also mature & nutritional value declines. It is important to allow full recovery. It is also important not to exceed full recovery.
What does the term graze period mean?
The graze period is the number of days that animals are allowed to graze in a pasture at one time. A good recommendation is to use a graze period of 3 to 5 days. The shorter the graze period is the better.
What is the stocking rate?
The stocking rate is the number of head carried on a piece of land for the grazing season. Another term used to describe this is carrying capacity.
What is stock density?
Stock density is the number of head per acre for a short period of time. The higher the stock density is the better. Stock density & stocking rate are different & must not be confused. Let’s look at a simple example. If you use a stocking rate of 30 pairs per quarter & are continuous grazing what is your stock density? The stock density is .2 pairs per acre (30 hd. / 160 ac.). If you use the same stocking rate of 30 pairs per quarter but have 16 pastures on the quarter what is your stock density? The stock density is 3 pairs per acre (30 hd. / 10 ac.). In this example your stocking rate is identical in both cases. Your stock density is 15 times greater (3 / .2) as you increase pasture numbers.
How many pastures are required to do a good job of grazing?
I can’t answer that question. However if you give me some information about your plans we can determine how many pastures will be required. The information required to determine the number of pastures is: What recovery period do you want? What graze period do you plan to use? Knowing these 2 numbers it is easy to determine how many pastures you will require. The formula for determining the number of pastures is: divide the recovery period by the graze period & add 1. Let’s use a simple example.
|Recovery||Graze||Extra Pasture||# of Pastures|
Here we can see that the number of pastures can vary from 16 to 76 depending on your recovery period & graze period. All of these are correct for different circumstances.
I understand that planned grazing adjusts the animal movements according to the growing conditions. How do you do this?
That is an excellent question. You are correct.In planned grazing we develop our grazing plan before growth starts. Our plan would be based on average growing conditions. Then as we begin to implement the plan & the season develops we monitor the regrowth in the first pasture we grazed. Animal movements are not based on the amount of grass in the pasture that the animals are in.
Animal movements are based on monitoring the regrowth in the first pasture grazed. This allows us to increase or decrease the recovery period & the graze The result is that we are able to achieve full recovery under all growing conditions.
This diagram shows the animals starting grazing in pasture # 9. The green arrows represent the animal moves. The animals are currently in pasture number 8. How long pasture 8 will be grazed is based not on how much grass is in number 8 but how the regrowth is occurring in pasture #9. In average conditions we will stay with our plan. If conditions are excellent or challenging we will adjust our plan.
I think I understand adjusting your moves to the current growing conditions. How do you do this?
We do this my changing the severity of the graze. In normal conditions we will have a moderate severity of graze. In challenging conditions we will have a severe graze. In excellent conditions we will have a light graze. All are correct for different growing conditions. By changing the severity of the graze we are able to change the recovery period. The result is full recovery under all conditions.
What is the difference between a severe graze & overgrazing?
Overgrazing is staying too long at one time or coming back too soon. The severity of the graze changes the residual left when the animals leave the pasture. A severe graze is not harmful when it is followed by a full recovery.
Is it possible to manage for the severity of the graze?
Yes. This must be done by changing your stocking rate not by changing your recovery period.
What happens when you slow down & change the severity of the graze?
You lose one days growth in the pasture you are in. In our example of a 16 pasture plan you gain one days growth in each of the 15 other pastures. 2015 is presenting some areas with challenging growing conditions. I encourage you to think & plan. Planned grazing works in all conditions. It works best in challenging conditions. I challenge you to do your best ever grazing plan in 2015. If you need help get it. It will be an investment not an expense.