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Biodiversity Through Grazing Management

By   /  September 25, 2017  /  Comments Off on Biodiversity Through Grazing Management

Jim Gerrish demonstrates how he grazed to get biodiversity in his pastures, along with all the benefits of healthy soil, good animal performance, and improved wildlife habitat.

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This week we’re talking about the resilience that biodiversity brings us. If you’d like more in your pasture, here are some suggestions from May of 2016 for getting there.

Biodiversity in your pastures provides many benefits to pasture productivity, soil health, animal performance, and wildlife habitat. The table below shows typical composition of our home pastures on our old Missouri farm.

Jim Gerrish Pasture Species

There were many other less plentiful species present that are not listed. Nine different plant functional groups are represented in these pastures with 40+ individual species.The main point I wanted to make was the functional diversity of the pasture. A good mixture of cool-season and warm-season species, annuals as well as perennials, and grasses and legumes.

JimOnAJumpDriveMuch of this pasture started out as predominantly endophyte-infected tall fescue. While we did overseed legumes into the pasture, all the other species appeared in response to the grazing management we imposed. Aggressive grazing in the Spring followed by longer summer recovery periods was the approach we used to change the composition. Fescue is an aggressive, dominating grass only if you allow it to be. Every third year we stockpiled 1/3rd of the farm for winter grazing and that allowed the legumes and annual grasses to go to seed.

We began doing daily rotation of both our cattle and sheep in 1988. Putting a heavy grazing impact on the tall fescue base in the Spring and early Summer is what allowed the pastures to flourish with diversity.

Pasture Example Jim Gerrish

We relied on legume N-fixation, high stock density grazing, and building organic matter to provide the nitrogen required for grass production. In 23 years on that farm, we used N fertilizer on limited pastures a total of three occasions. N fertilizer is not at all necessary to have high producing pastures.

Legumes in Jim Gerrish Pasture


natglc-logo-1Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.


The National Grazing Lands Conference is scheduled for December 2 – 5, 2018 in Reno, Nevada. It’s one of the best conferences we’ve been to, so you’ll want to be there!



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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

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