What is rotational grazing?
Rotational grazing is the key to how we maintain superb soil and pasture quality on the farm. Put simply, rotational grazing is moving cattle from pasture to pasture every few days. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Especially when it comes to moving 85 cows and their calves! So why would we put ourselves through extra work?
To answer that question, let's start at the basics. Each pasture on our farm has been subdivided into smaller pastures with single strand electric wire. We apportion these off further with electric temporary fencing that can be removed easily using a reel. At any one time, the cows are usually grazing 1-2 acres. We will move the temporary fence every 1-3 days so that they can access new grass.
Moving the cows to new grass is accomplished by "calling" the cows, then opening the gate and leading them in to the new pasture. Every farmer or rancher does it differently, but on our farm, we use a call that sounds like "kiiiiiiip." When the cows hear the "kiiiiiip," they immediately know we are moving them to fresh food. Once they are all assembled near the gate, we open it, then drive through with the ranger, and every cow follows munching on their new dinner!
Some of the known benefits of rotational grazing are:
- Improved soil health because plants are allowed to regrow above and below ground (deep roots)
- Improved soil health because manure is spread more evenly to all parts of the pasture
- Better soil health in turn helps the pastures become more resistant to drought
- Decreased soil erosion because the plants are strong and hold the soil in place even during times of hard rain
- Decreased weed growth because having strong growth of good plants inhibits weeds
- Causes the cows to more active foragers because they know if they don't eat it, one of the other cows will. This helps utilize all of the pasture efficiently
- The ability to graze more animals per acre