Skip Navigation

Solution: Rotational Grazing

Rotational Grazing:  Planting forage and using grazing rotations among different fields to maximize production and reduce sediment and nutrient runoff.

 

How it Works

Photo of cows grazing on alfalfa field.

A landowner develops a management plan for grazed land to improve forage quality, livestock health and water quality. In a managed grazing system, livestock are moved frequently among pasture divisions or paddocks based on forage quality and livestock nutrition needs. Portable fencing allows each paddock to rest and regrow until the next grazing rotation. Compared to traditional continuous grazing, managed grazing can provide a healthier plant community, decreased erosion and runoff, better livestock health and performance, and reduced costs to the landowner.

Planning

  • Consider the number of livestock and the forage needed. Will existing pasture meet livestock needs, or will seeding and/or fertilization be needed? Plan for management alternatives for times of low forage production.
  • Is there adequate, good quality water distributed throughout the pasture?
  • Soil erosion control practices may be needed on stream banks or in areas of concentrated runoff before the grazing system can be put in place.
  • Move livestock on and off paddocks according to forage availability, not according to the calendar. Plan rest periods so paddocks have adequate time to recover during the growing season.

Maintenance

  • Apply lime and fertilizer as indicated by soil tests.
  • Haying may be necessary during heavy growth periods.
  • Repair fencing as needed.
  • Remove or drain pasture watering systems during winter.
  • Revise the rotation schedule and the size and number of paddocks as herd size and other factors change.

Questions?  Ask a Conservationist!