Rotational grazing is a system where a large pasture is divided into smaller paddocks allowing livestock to be moved from one paddock to the other easily. Using this method cattle are concentrated on a smaller area of the pasture for a few days then moved to another section of pasture. This movement allows the grazed paddock a rest period that permits forages to initiate regrowth, renew carbohydrate stores, and improve yield and persistency. When utilized properly, rotational grazing can help farmers increase forage productivity. Rotational grazing can help improve productivity, weight gain or milk production per acre, and overall net return to the farm. Rotational grazing allows for better manure distribution that acts as a source of nutrients to the soil. Rotational grazing also has the potential to reduce machinery cost, fuel, supplemental feeding and the amount of forage wasted.
The disadvantages of rotational grazing include the need for more fence to be constructed, time required to move cattle, and the need to have water and access to shade from each smaller paddock. The use of temporary fence is an inexpensive way to divide fields into the smaller paddocks and can be moved based upon the producers’ preference. If additional watering sources are needed they can be added by using plastic pipe placed on top of the ground from a current water source to the desired location.
Rotational grazing can help extend the grazing season, allowing a producer to rely less on stored feed and supplement. One of the most desirable attributes of this system is that a producer can design it to fit their needs. Rotational grazing allows a producer to be more in control of the timing and intensity of forage grazed by cattle. For those wanting to start using this system try taking one pasture and dividing it in half to begin with. If you see an improvement, divide it again the next year, or try dividing another pasture in half. For those who use this method it may take several years to figure out exactly what works best . Using temporary fence materials and portable watering tanks allows a producer to experiment with different paddock sizes and watering systems.