Sheep grazing in the grass is certainly a pastoral scene but keeping a
healthy stand of grass for them to graze in for years to come is the
It can be overwhelming trying to manage all the do and do not advice, and
interpreting all the grazing lingo out there, when all you wish to do is
get the basics on pasture management so you can put your animals out to
We always felt a bit lost in the lingo
until we realized that we didn't have to be experts to start and the
goal isn't to get it right. We're playing in Mother Nature's playground. The goal is something more akin to aiming for healthy grass growth each year, while striving to make improvements. So with that in mind...
- Nature is never fixed - she's always fluid. There will not be two years alike for you to get it right anyway. The weather always plays a role in what happens.
density, carrying capacity, animal units, and all the other buzzwords
and calculations associated with grazing in the grass will be found in
the books Holistic Management, Grass-Fed Cattle, and Small-Scale
Livestock Farming. Don't sweat about understanding them all before you
start. You'll grasp these terms as you go along.
- Good water sources are a key feature in a grass based rotational grazing set up. Always consider water sources in your plan.
If you can, prevent animals from watering directly from natural
wetlands by providing watering stations or piping water to them.
you must water directly from wetlands provide an easy access water
point through a portable ramp or building a permanent base. The
livestock will use the easy access points and cause less damage to the
banks, riparian areas and thus the wetlands. If this is not feasible try
to ensure the livestock move often so they do not return to the same
watering point, repeatedly causing long term damage.
- It isn't sheep that kill grass by over-grazing, it is the rancher who forced them to stay on the pasture too long.Sheep bite and clip grass off. They are referred to as nature's lawn mowers and they can graze down to the roots if forced to.
- Urine and manure are essential components
to fertilizing grassland systems and grazing in the grass for years to
come. Manure is not only fertilizer but it contains millions of bacteria
that enable the breakdown of the manure and trampled grass residue
incorporating both back into the soil.
- When ranchers
leave livestock in large pastures for the entire season the animals spread out and the concentrated manure distribution
and animal impact that happens when the group stays closer together, is
lost. Having manure widely spread allows the animals to come back and
graze an area too soon thus depleting the vigor of the grass.
grazing is known to increase the grass volume and biodiversity meaning
more species of grass can thrive. And it does.
- More species of grass equals a larger smorgasbord of food and nutrition sources for your animals.
Potentially you could run more animals on the same amount of land. Or
different species of animals can graze the same land without land
purchases or increasing grazing infrastructure. You also gain in
improved land an livestock health.
- Mother Nature seems to forgive a first mistake and often a second but rarely a third. There is no absolute right and wrong to way to do rotational grazing and you've got a little room to make some trial and error.
don't make grazing in the grass so complicated you can't manage it.
While it may seem like a lot of factors to account for the first time
you look at it, don't let that sway you. Keep it simple and keep it
real. Allow Mother Nature to show you how.
Go to Pasture Management from Grazing in the Grass
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