Rotational Grazing Systems

Rotational Grazing Systems

July 2008

By mid-July most years, we start to notice our grasslands suffering from a lack of water. But rotationally grazed pastures aren't hurt quite as bad. Why do rotationally grazed pastures do better in summer? Mostly it's because their root systems are healthier and deeper than continuously grazed pastures due to the periodic rest they receive. As a result, they can gather more soil moisture from deeper soil depths.

This year, many eastern and central Nebraska pastures have plenty of grass while western areas remain short. So why think about rotational grazing now? Mainly, because if you aren't already grazing rotationally, start now, regardless of whether you have abundant rain and grass or you are in a drought.

Starting rotational grazing when you have plenty of grass will rest plants and begin to improve their root system immediately. This makes them better able to gather moisture during the next dry spell.

When you are short on grass, rotational grazing improves harvest efficiency of your pasture. By concentrating animals onto smaller pastures, grazing uniformity improves. This means your animals do less pick-and-choosing-and-trampling as they graze. They eat more of what is available to them and they waste less feed. This helps current pasture growth feed your animals longer. So do some extra cross-fencing. You will stretch your feed supply as well as improve roots and production for next year.

Bruce Anderson Dr. Bruce Anderson, Professor of Agronomy
Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE