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Continuous Grazing vs Rotational Grazing. How Often Should You Move Your Herd?

The Central Plains Experiment Station in North Central Colorado was established in 1939 as part of recovery from the dust bowl days. Its purpose was to improve agricultural and grazing management practices on the short grass prairie. You can read about its first 50 years in this 1989 piece from Rangelands Journal.

This week’s article collection was inspired by an email I got from the Agricultural Research Service presenting the results of some research looking at foraging behavior in rotational and continuously grazed pastures and how that affects weight gain. The results are part of ongoing, long-term, landscape-scale research at the Central Plains Experimental Range.

The first three articles in this collection will likely cause some consternation as their results are different than what both researchers and graziers expected. Having shared some of these articles in the past, I know folks will say, “Well! They must have done something wrong!”

My response to that is: This is science and the point of it is to provide information that might be helpful in improving things for everyone. To that end, these researchers clearly tell you everything they did that led to these results. If you see an error, the next step in science is to do research with your own adjustments, and see what the answer is. In that way, we all move forward. In the meantime, we can consider this new information and if it leads us to reconsider what we “know” and what we might do differently.

I’ll also add a word on continuous grazing. Like all management, doing it well means knowing how much forage you have, how much you need, and then stocking accordingly. When we get in trouble is when our stocking rate doesn’t match the forage available.

First, the New Paper

Here we learn how grazing management affects foraging behavior and how much weight animals gain.

New Research Reveals How Grazing Management Practices Affect Cattle Weight Gain by Altering Foraging Behavior

Two Papers That Add to Our Knowledge

Yes, regrazing is bad. But is it really happening to the extent we think it is? These researchers crawled around on the ground marking tiny grass plants and then coming back to what happened.

Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management, Multipaddock Rotational Grazing, and the Story of the Regrazed Grass Plant

After working really hard to make good rotational grazing decisions, this 11-stakeholder group of ranchers, and land managers learned something surprising.

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

Thoughts About the Economic and Lifestyle Considerations When Deciding How Often to Move Livestock

John Marble has done a lot of thinking about this and his grazing business has changed over the years based on what he’s discovered and on how he prefers to spend his time. I think you’ll appreciate his ideas.

How Often Should You Move Your Herd? Lifestyle and Economic Considerations for Designing your Grazing Program

Infrastructure Costs on Different Ranches – Wide Open Spaces and Little Bitty Places

Too much seriousness? Have a Couple of Laughs!

Rube Goldberg Cow

Buy Your Kid a Nose Ring!

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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