Grazing involves a number of variables, including: carrying capacity of the land, type and distribution of the livestock, water distribution, and number of pastures. A combination of both proper grazing techniques and grassland management will improve harvest efficiency and lower production costs.
To develop a sound grazing management program, keep in mind these general principles:
- Meet the nutritional needs of your livestock. Livestock performance will differ depending on the quality of the plants being consumed. A healthy plant community will better meet the nutritional needs of the livestock. Allow enough grazing area for your herd, basing the pasture size on plant production capabilities. In addition to forage quality, each pasture must produce an adequate quantity of forage required by the grazing livestock.
- Optimize forage yield, quality and persistence. Plants need leaf surface area to capture the energy from sunshine and carbon dioxide to perform photosynthesis. By rotating livestock at the appropriate times, grasses are given the rest period needed to grow, build root reserves, and continue to thrive.
- Protect and enhance the resource base. Proper grazing management protects and promotes plant growth and vigor. Plants that are given sufficient rest periods become healthier over time and provide more nutrients to your livestock. Additionally, more desirable plants can thrive to provide more diversity.
- Integrate knowledge and technology to develop a practical and economically viable management system. Knowledge and technology equate to power. This power can provide a successful grazing system that operates efficiently, which means a healthier grassland, healthier cattle, and increased profit.
The Healthy Grasslands article series is provided by the South Dakota Grassland Coalition in partnership with SDSU Extension. Contributing editors: Sandy Smart (SDSU Extension Rangeland Management Specialist), Pete Bauman (SDSU Extension Range Field Specialist), and Joshua Lefers (South Dakota Grassland Coalition Board Member, 2015–2017). © South Dakota Grassland Coalition 2017. View the full document for more information.