Swath Grazing: Extending the grazing season

Producers are always looking to cut costs in livestock operations because of marginal profit opportunities in commodity based markets. One proposed way to cut fall/winter feeding costs is to extend the grazing season and allow the livestock to harvest the resource instead of relying on mechanical harvest. This will reduce the labor required to cut, bale, and feed hay. At issue is the harvest efficiency of grazing versus mechanical harvest and the costs associated with each enterprise. Grazing is an inefficient process (see Figure 1), especially during the growing season when residual leaf material is needed to maintain plant vigor.  In extensive grassland systems this efficiency is usually 25% and under more intensive management it could approach 35% under moderate grazing pressure (25 AUD·Mg-1). However, after a plant sets seed or after a killing frost, less residual leaf material is needed to ensure plant vigor and therefore a greater grazing pressure can be applied to increase the harvest efficiency. In this situation, we might increase harvest efficiency to 50% under very heavy stocking rates or grazing pressures that approach 50 AUD·Mg-1 (Figure 1). By contrast, haying could be as high as 80 to 90% efficient depending on the cutting height. Combining the advantages of these two techniques (high harvest efficiency of cutting and low labor costs of grazing) is the underlying principle behind swath grazing. [caption id="attachment_21025" align="aligncenter" widt

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2 thoughts on “Swath Grazing: Extending the grazing season

  1. I am currently swath-grazing some BMR Forage Sorghum. From August to the end of October I windrowed a little each day, just to stay a couple days ahead of the cattle. About November 1 we finally had a real killing frost so I windrowed the entire remainder of the field.

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