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It Doesn’t Take Long for a Change in Grazing to Make a Difference

By   /  October 3, 2016  /  2 Comments

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Why bother changing my grazing system? It probably won’t make much difference anyway,” here are some pictures to consider. They come from the McGinn Ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska and show some good improvement in just 2 years.

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Here is an illustration of managed grazing beginning to heal an overgrazed landscape in the Nebraska Sand Hills. On the left side of each photo is a neighboring set stocked, low stock density pasture. On the right side is shorter grazing period a moderate stock density. With a little more infrastructure development, they will move to even shorter grazing periods and higher stock density.

We had posted the first two photos in this sequence last fall. I visited McGinn Ranch near Anselmo NE again last week and took the next photos in the series. More perennial grasses are taking hold in response to managed recovery periods and time controlled grazing. This is just two years into the change in grazing management.

This is how this spot looked in 2014 when I made my first visit to McGinn Ranch. Their side of the fence looked pretty much like the neighbors side because the management was the same. Set stocked for several months at a low stock density.

This was November of 2015 following a single season of management-intensive grazing. The first season there were quite a few annual grasses and forbs making up that ground cover on the right side of the fence.
This August 2016 just ahead of the herd coming in on the pasture. The left side has had cattle on it continuously since May.
Sand bluestem is one of the perennial native species recolonizing the blowout.
Sand paspalum is another native warm season grass taking hold. We also saw Scribner’s panicum, blue grama, sideoats grama, switchgrass, tickle grass, and western wheatgrass reestablishing themselves on the loose sand. Note the fineness of the sand here.
That’s just two short years!
Do you have pictures and examples to share with your fellow On Pasture readers? Send Kathy an email to find out how you can get them into a future issue of On Pasture!



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About the author

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.


  1. Ed Roberson says:

    It’s true when they say a picture’s worth a 1,000 words! Thank you for this very effective and impactful article, Jim.

  2. Chip Hines says:

    Folks, if you have chance to go to one of Jim Gerrish’s presentations, do so. The pictures are proof of what can be done.

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