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Managed intensive rotational grazing

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Title: Managed intensive rotational grazing  
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Subject: Agriculture, List of organic gardening and farming topics, Desert greening, Allan Savory, Environmental vegetarianism
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Managed intensive rotational grazing

In agriculture, Managed intensive rotational grazing (MIRG), also known as cell grazing, mob grazing and holistic managed planned grazing, describes a variety of closely related systems of forage use in which ruminant and non-ruminant herds and/or flocks are regularly and systematically moved to fresh rested areas with the intent to maximize the quality and quantity of forage growth.

One primary goal of MIRG is to have a vegetative cover over all grazed areas at all times, and to prevent the complete removal of all vegetation from the grazed areas ("bare dirt")[1][2][3] [4]

MIRG can be used with cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks and other animals. The herds graze one portion of pasture, or a paddock, while allowing the others to recover. The length of time a paddock is grazed will depend on the size of the herd and the size of the paddock. Resting grazed lands allows the vegetation to renew energy reserves, rebuild shoot systems, and deepen root systems, with the result being long-term maximum biomass production.[5] MIRG is especially effective because grazers do better on the more tender younger plant stems. MIRG also leave parasites behind to die off minimizing or eliminating the need for de-wormers. Pasture systems alone can allow grazers to meet their energy requirements, and with the increased productivity of MIRG systems, the grazers obtain the majority of their nutritional needs without the supplemental feed sources that are required in continuous grazing systems.[6]

One key element of this style of animal husbandry is that either each grazed area must contain all elements needed for the animals (water source, for instance) or the the feed or water source must be moved each time the animals are moved. Having fixed feeding or watering stations defeats the rotational aspect, leading to degradation of the ground around the water supply or feed supply if additional feed is provided to the animals. Special care must be taken to ensure that high use areas do not become areas where mud, parasites or diseases are spread or communicated [7] [8]


  • Herd health and welfare 1
    • Animal health risks 1.1
    • Animal health benefits and animal welfare 1.2
  • Weed control 2
  • Nutrient availability and soil fertility 3
  • Socio-cultural-economic considerations 4
  • Environmental considerations 5
  • Human nutrition 6
  • Criticism 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Herd health and welfare

Animal health risks

Bloat is a common problem in grazing systems for

  • Electric fencing for serious grazers.
  • Bartlett, B. Watering systems for grazing livestock. Great Lakes Basin Grazing Network and Michigan State University Extension.
  • Watering systems for grazing livestock. Iowa State University Extension.
  • Graze. Monthly publication.
  • The Stockman Grass Farmer. Monthly publication.
  • Grassworks
  • Pasture Score Sheet.
  • Greener Pastures.
  • NRCS Range and Pasture Handbook
  • Forage Resources
  • The Ins and Outs of Overwintering
  • Nitrogen Fertilization
  • Weed Control in Pastures without Chemicals
  • How does managed grazing affect Wisconsin's environment
  • Milking more than profit
  • Graze Anatomy. By Richard Manning. OnEarth Magazine, Spring 2009

External links

  1. ^ name=healing native rangeland may require a combination of burning and rotational grazing
  2. ^ name=Small Acreage Grazing impacts to our natural resources [6]
  3. ^ name=Rotational grazing for Pastured Livestock [7]
  4. ^ name=Managing Your Pasture: Small scale solutions for your farm [8]
  5. ^ Alice E. Beetz and Lee Rinehart 2004. Rotational grazing. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Undersander, D., Albert, B., Cosgrove, D., Johnson, D., Peterson, P. UW-Extension 2002. Pastures for profit: A guide to rotational grazing
  7. ^ name=grazing systems planning guide [9]
  8. ^ name=pastures for profit [10]
  9. ^ Sullivan, K., DeClue, R., Emmick, D. 2000. Prescribed grazing and feeding management for lactating dairy cows USDA-NRCS
  10. ^ a b c d e 2005. Pasture management guide for Livestock Producers. Iowa State University (note, no electronic source available)
  11. ^ Berntsen, J., Grant, R., Olesen, J.E., Kristensen, I.S., Vinther, F.P, Molgaard, J.P., and Petersen, B.M. 2006. Nitrogen cycling in organic farming systems with rotational grass-clover and arable crops. Soil Use and Management, 22: 197-208.
  12. ^ a b Blanchet, K., Moechnig, H., and DeJong-Hughes, J. 2003. Grazing systems planning guide. USDA-NRCS and University of Minnesota Extension and University of Minnesota Water Resource Center
  13. ^ a b c Kriegl, T., McNair, R. 2005. Pastures of Plenty: Financial performance of Wisconsin grazing dairy farms. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, Center for Dairy Profitability, and Program on Agricultural Technology Studies
  14. ^ Cadwallader, T. and Cosgrove, D. Setting Posts: Fencing systems for rotational grazing. University of Wisconsin Extension.
  15. ^ 2005. Electric fencing for serious grazers. USDA-NRCS.
  16. ^ Watering systems for grazing livestock. Great Lakes Basin Grazing Network and Michigan State University Extension.
  17. ^ Archer, Steve, Fred E. Smeins. Grazing Management an ecological perspective edited by Rodney K Heitschmidt and Jerry W Stuth. p. Chapter 5. 
  18. ^ Duckett, S K; D G Wagner; L D Yates; H G Dolezal; S G May (1993). "Effects of time on feed on beef nutrient composition" (PDF).  
  19. ^ Leheska, J. M.; L. D. Thompson, J. C. Howe, E. Hentges, J. Boyce, J. C. Brooks, B. Shriver, L. Hoover and M. F. Miller (December 2008). "Effects of conventional and grass-feeding systems on the nutrient composition of beef".  
  20. ^ Buchanan, J. W.; A. J. Garmyn; G. G. Hilton; D. L. VanOverbeke; Q. Duan; D. C. Beitz; R. G. Mateescu (January 2013). "Comparison of gene expression and fatty acid profiles in concentrate and forage finished beef".  
  21. ^ Chilliard, Yves; Ferlay, Anne (1 September 2004). "Dietary lipids and forages interactions on cow and goat milk fatty acid composition and sensory properties". Reproduction Nutrition Development 44 (5): 467–492.  
  22. ^ Long, Cheryl. "Meet Real Free-Range Eggs". Mother Earth News. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  23. ^ Briske, D. D. "Origin, Persistence, and Resolution of the Rotational Grazing Debate: Integrating Human Dimensions Into Rangeland Research" (PDF). Rangeland Ecol Manage 64:325–334. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  24. ^ D. D. Briske, J. D. Derner, J. R. Brown, S. D. Fuhlendorf, W. R. Teague, K. M. Havstad, R. L. Gillen, A. J. Ash, W. D. Willms, (2008) Rotational Grazing on Rangelands: Reconciliation of Perception and Experimental Evidence. Rangeland Ecology & Management: January 2008, Vol. 61, No. 1, pp. 3-17


See also

Managed intensive rotational grazing paints a wide brush over many different managed grazing systems. Managers have found that rotational grazing systems can work for diverse management purposes, but scientific experiments have demonstrated that rotational grazing systems do not always necessarily work for specific ecological purposes.[23] This controversy stems from two main categorical differences in rotational grazing, prescribed management and adaptive management. The performance of rangeland grazing strategies are similarly constrained by several ecological variables establishing that differences among them are dependent on the effectiveness of those management models. Depending on the management model, plant production has been shown to be equal or greater in continuous compared to rotational grazing in 87% of the experiments.[24]


Animals raised on pasture have shown major differences in the nutritional quality of the products they produce for human consumption.[18][19][20][21][22]

Human nutrition

Many pastures undergoing MIRG are less susceptible to soil erosion and are associated with higher soil fertility than continuously grazed pastures, depending on the skill of the manager and the management system he is using. As a result, the paddocks require fewer commercial inputs, which have been associated with negative environmental impacts. In addition, because these systems tend to be more resilient and stable they are more capable of responding to changing environmental conditions and perturbations while not compromising productivity.[17]

Environmental considerations

It can also be demonstrated that management intensive rotational grazing system also result in time savings because the majority of work which might otherwise require human labor is transmitted to the herd.[13][6]

The main costs associated with transitioning to management intensive rotational grazing are purchasing fencing, fencers, and water supply materials.[14][15][16] If a pasture was continuously grazed in the past, likely capital has already been invested in fencing and a fencer system.[13] Cost savings to graziers can also be recognized when one considers that many of the costs associated with livestock operations are transmitted to the grazers. For example, the grazers actively harvest their own sources of food for the portion of the year where grazing is possible. This translates into lower costs for feed production and harvesting, which are fuel intensive endeavors. MIRG systems rely on the grazers to produce fertilizer sources via their excretion. There is also no need for collection, storage, transportation, and application of manure, which are also all fuel intensive. Additionally, external fertilizer use contributes to other costs such as labor, purchasing costs.[6]

Although milk yields are often lower in MIRG systems, net farm income per cow is often greater as compared to confinement operations. This is due to the additional costs associated with herd health and purchased feeds are greatly reduced in management intensive rotational grazing systems. Additionally, a transition to management intensive rotational grazing is associated with low start-up and maintenance costs.[13] Another consideration is that while production per cow is less, the amount of cows per acre on the pasture can increase. The net effect is more productivity per acre at less cost.

Socio-cultural-economic considerations

High levels of fertilizers entering waterways are a pertinent environmental concern associated with agricultural systems. However, management intensive rotational grazing systems effectively reduce the amount of nutrients that move off-farm which have the potential to cause environmental degradation.[12] These systems are fertilized with on-farm sources, and are less prone to leaching as compared to commercial fertilizers. Additionally, the system is less prone to excess nutrient fertilization, so the majority of nutrients put into the system by manure sources are utilized for plant growth.[12] Permanent pasture systems also have deeper, well established forage root systems which are more efficient at taking up nutrients from within the soil profile.[10]

If pasture systems are seeded with more than 40% legumes, commercial nitrogen erosion because the land base has continuous ground cover throughout the year.

Nutrient availability and soil fertility

A key step in managing weeds in any pasture system is identification. Once the undesired species in a pasture system are identified an integrated approach of management can be implemented to control weed populations. It is important to recognize that no single approach to weed management will result in weed free pastures; therefore, various cultural, mechanical, and chemical control methods can be combined in an integrated weed management plan.[6] Cultural controls include avoiding spreading manure contaminated with weed seeds, cleaning equipment after working in weed infested areas, and managing weed problems in fencerows and other areas near pastures. Mechanical controls such as repeated mowing, clipping, and hand weeding can also be used to effectively manage weed infestations by weakening the plant. These methods should be implemented when weed flower buds are closed or just starting to open to prevent seed production. Although these methods for managing weeds greatly reduces reliance on herbicides, weeds problems may still persist in managed grazing systems and the use of herbicides may become necessary. Use of herbicides may restrict use of a pasture for some length of time, depending on the type and amount of the chemical used. Frequently weeds in pasture systems are patchy and therefore spot treatment of herbicides may be used as a least cost methods of chemical control.[10][6]

In general, a well managed rotational grazing system has rather low pasture weed establishment because the majority of niches are already filled with established forage species, making it hard for competing weeds to emerge and become established.[10] The use of multiple species in the co-grazing helps to minimize weeds. Established forage plants in rotational grazing pasture systems are healthy and unstressed due to the "rest" period, enhancing the competitive advantage of the forage. Additionally, in comparison to cash grain crop production, plants which would be considered weeds are not problematic in row crops.[6] Many of these plants are actually nutritious to grazers and control of these plants is therefore not necessary in management intensive rotational systems. However, certain species such as thistles and various other weeds, are indigestible and possibly poisonous to grazers. These plant species will not be grazed by the herd and can be recognized for their prevalence in pasture systems.

Weed control

By comparison, with managed grazing, the animals are able to spread out and exist in a natural environment more suited for their natural growth and development. As the animals move to a new paddock, wastes are left behind and allowed to decay without the animals nearby. The animals experience less disease without the need for regular antibiotic dosing, and fewer foot ailments.

In a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), it is considered normal for a large number of animals to continuously occupy a very small area. The aisles that animals use to move around are consequently constantly coated with a moist layer of manure and urine from the many animals, leading to ailments such as foot rot due to the constant wet exposure. The manure and urine is usually just scraped off into gutters below slatted surfaces, and the surfaces and gutters are rarely washed completely clean, so molds, bacteria, and insects can grow and thrive in the potentially infectious waste. Feeding areas in a CAFO are also rarely stripped bare and washed with a disinfectant, as this would reduce the time available for animals to eat continuously, so molds and bacteria are also able to become established where the animals eat. The close confinement and lack of general environmental cleanliness leads to easier spread of infection and increased sickness, requiring the regular feeding of antibiotics to keep the confined animals healthy but which also leads to antibiotic resistance for bacteria constantly present in the CAFO.

[6] Herd health benefits arise from animals having access to both space and fresh air. Freedom of movement within a paddock results in increased

Animal health benefits and animal welfare

Several problems are related to shade in pasture areas. Although shade provides relief from heat and reduces the risk of heat stress, animals tend to congregate in these areas which leads to nutrient loading, uneven grazing, and potential soil erosion.[10] Taller shade trees move the shade area around as the day progresses minimizing this problem.


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