Splitting up paddocks for intensive grazing

May 20 2013 0 Comments Tags: cattle, grazing, pasture

Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG), also known as cell grazing, mob stocking, holistic managed planned grazing and possibly other terms as well.  There’s lots of different names for it and each method is slightly different, but whatever you call it, the idea is to split up your land into the smallest size paddocks you can manage and move your animals as frequently as possible.  The opposite is called continuous grazing, where the livestock have access to all the land all the time.  The disadvantage of continuous grazing is that cattle will tend to nibble at the green tips of the grass they prefer, so the roots have to continuously contract to produce more leaf.  Eventually the plant will die unless it is given a chance to recover and re-grow deeper roots.  
grass roots depending on grazing period and recovery time

Rotational grazing allows the grass to recover.  If its done properly, the cattle should eat most (but not all) of the available forage in the time they have in the area, and trample the rest.  They will spread their manure over the area and then be moved away from their manure (and the parasites that can breed in the manure), to a fresh pasture.


The greatest benefit is realised the more  frequently the animals are moved and the smaller the paddock size, but even splitting a property into a few large paddocks will make a difference to the ability of the pasture to regenerate.  This method can also be used to graze forage in sections rather than letting the cattle have all the forage all at once.  This ensures more even grazing and less wastage.


our forage sorghum after the rain
With electric fencing, the moving part is easy.  The thing we have struggled with is providing water to all these small paddocks.  The ideal would be to reticulate water all over the property and move and fill water troughs when the cattle are moved.  This is an expensive option, so if you need to set something up before you can afford the full system that you'd prefer, it is also possible to start with the cattle near a water source and gradually move a temporary fence away from the water, as shown in the first diagram.  The cattle will use the same water source for the entire time they are in that paddock, but they will spend less time in the area they have already grazed (light green in the diagram below) and more time in the new pasture (dark green) as the fence is moved to fresh pasture.
Move the fence away from the water
If there is no water source in a particular area, you can leave a gate open to allow access to water (and even construct a laneway if you have the spare fencing).  The fence can be move gradually away from the gate, allowing the cattle access to more pasture or forage crop with each move.  This is how we grazed our forage sorghum crop recently.
Options for paddock with no water source, moving the fence around a gate
For more information about intensive grazing, see this booklet.  Fiona from Life at Arbordale Farm also wrote an excellent post on mob stocking recently (she is much better with Paint diagrams that I am too).

Have you tried intensive grazing?  How do you make it work at your place?  What is stopping you using it more intensively?  Any questions?


  


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