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When is the Best Time of Day to Move Animals?

WyomingGrazingSchoolsquareA common question we hear at pasture walks or grazing seminars is when is the best time of day to move cattle to the next paddock. There are some who advocate moving in the afternoon based on the fact that energy content of forages peaks in mid-afternoon corresponding with peak photosynthesis. But, since cattle will generally consume greater than 60% of their total daily intake in the first three hours of the day, I don’t buy into the ‘move them in the afternoon’ theory.

Cattle will generally consume at least 60% of their total daily forage intake from roughly a half-hour before sunrise to 2-3 hours after sunrise.
Cattle get to work grazing about a half hour before sunrise. Within 2 to 3 hours after the sun comes up they’ll have eaten about 60% of what their total forage for the day.


Another reason I prefer to move them in the morning is to see what they are doing in late afternoon. If you have to let cattle go back across previously grazed areas for a few days to access water, observing them in late afternoon will tell you if the daily pasture allocation is adequate.

If 75% or more of the herd is, at the end of the day, still grazing in the strip you gave them that morning, they are telling you that strip is still the best bite of feed in the pasture. If more than 30-40% are picking over the area where they were on the previous days, they are telling you that you need to be giving them more pasture tomorrow.

Here is an aerial showing the third day of grazing with cattle returning to the same water tank on all three days. You can see just a few head at the tank and a few more moving to or from today’s grazing strip. This pattern late in the day tells us the current strip is the best feed in the pasture.

Aerial of where cattle are grazing

Moving the herd in the morning and checking on them late in the day is a simple monitoring tool for checking adequacy of your pasture allocation.

AND…moving cattle in the morning keeps you young and healthy!

Moving cattle in the morning keeps you young
See how young and healthy Jim looks when he’s moving cattle in the morning. Those of you who don’t recognize him here are probably used to seeing him later in the day. 😉



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Jim Gerrish
Jim Gerrish
Jim Gerrish is the author of "Management-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming" and "Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-around Grazing" and is a popular speaker at conferences around the world. His company, American GrazingLands Services LLC is dedicated to improving the health and sustainable productivity of grazing lands around the world through the use of Management-intensive Grazing practices. They work with small farms, large ranches, government agencies and NGO's to promote economically and environmentally sustainable grazing operations and believe healthy farms and ranches are the basis of healthy communities and healthy consumers. Visit their website to find out more about their consulting services and grazing management tools, including electric fencing, stock water systems, forage seed, and other management tools.

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