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Adaptive, Multi-Paddock Grazing May Not Be Better Than Continuous Grazing

By   /  August 9, 2021  /  9 Comments

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More food for thought for the Thinking Grazier “Adaptive, multipaddock rotational grazing managem
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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.


  1. This is my first time reading “On Pasture”, but this analysis has me hooked! Thanks Kathy, appreciate how active you are in the comments, explaining your thoughts and backing it up with your experience and research. Many thanks from this young, hopeful future grazier! Can’t wait to read some more!

  2. paul sharpe says:

    As someone who has been reading, teaching and experimenting about grazing since 1988, I was surprised. Recently I developed and taught a course on Sustainable Practices in Agriculture and am preparing to teach it again soon. I also wonder about changes in soil carbon content in these experiments and whether the rotational grazing involved grazing down to bare earth or leaving half the standing height of forage for regeneration.

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Paul,
      I think that when you read the paper, you’ll see that their rotational grazing did not include grazing down to bare earth. You might also be interested in the study “Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management, Multipaddock Rotational Grazing, and the Story of the Regrazed Grass Plant” in Rangeland and Ecology Management from September of 2021 which found similar results. And with just a bit of exploration, I’ve been finding more articles like this today. It seems like something I should gather and present to On Pasture readers.

      Regarding soil carbon content, scientists in this same LTAR have studied soil carbon content and grazing’s contribution to increases or decreases for a very long time. I covered some of that research here. They and others don’t arrive at the answers we most hope for – that grazing in a particular fashion makes a big difference. And again, I have collected more papers like that just today.

      You might also find the 2008 paper by Briske et al interesting where they talk about the history of the concept of rotational grazing and the role that perception plays in our decisions. I found it very interesting.

      Again, none of this is to say that rotational grazing is not a viable management tool. It simply points out some interesting things that we may not have been aware of and that may be helpful to graziers.

  3. Paul McHorse says:

    With the test hypothesis of this study is C3 grass improvement and animal performance, I am sure their data is accurate. My concern with any of the studies that have been conducted on grazing management is they all seem to maintain a narrow focus while the landscapes are not 2 dimensional.

    It would be interesting to have them examine any soil health variations between the sites, plant diversity changes and variations in wildlife populations.

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Paul,
      I highly recommend downloading and reading the paper as it will give you information on plant diversity changes and variations in wildlife populations. They’ve done other work on soil health in the same LTAR and they have long term info since they started work there in 1939. I might be able to find something for you as well.

  4. Dan Nosal says:

    The devil is in the details. The average number of grazing days for each of the CARM pastures during the 5-year study was about 3 weeks. That is too long of a grazing period in my opinion to truly see benefits in that short of a time frame. When I asked one of the authors why they didn’t double the number of pastures to 20 (to shorten the grazing periods and increase the stock density) and do a longer-term study, he said it was a financial decision. I question that. Temporary electric fence really doesn’t cost that much.

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Dan,
      I thought this was an interesting point, so I went to look at the number of days grazed and the order in which pastures were grazed over the 5 year period of the study. What I was interested in was whether the same pasture was grazed at the same time every year, and it seems they did a really good job of rotating timing to provide rest to cool season grasses so they could potentially increase. I thought that maybe they were looking at it that way. I’ve attached the graph here, but you can see it better if you download the paper.
      Days in pastures graphic

  5. Curt Gesch says:

    Perhaps Alderspring Ranch could comment on their experience in a drought year on open range.

  6. Howard Vernon says:

    Can you point us to what the science says about areas that are not semi-arid? Say 40 inches of rainfall or so per year? Thx.

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