Grazing Management

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • A grazing plan that matches animal numbers to predicted forage yields should be carried out before animal turnout. Rest periods/grazing periods for each paddock needs to be based on previous history and future goals.
  • The efficiency with which plants convert the sun's energy into green leaves and the ability of animals to harvest and use energy from those leaves depends on the phase of growth of the plants. Plants go through three phases of growth that form an "S" shaped curve.
  • Phase I occurs in the spring following dormancy or after severe grazing where few leaves are left to intercept sunlight forcing plants to mobilize energy from the roots. The roots become smaller and weaker as energy is used to grow new leaves.
  • Phase II is the period of most rapid growth. When regrowth reaches one fourth to one third of the plant's mature size, enough energy is captured through photosynthesis to support growth and begin replenishing the roots.
  • Phase III material is mature and nutrient content, palatability, and digestibility is poor. Leaves become shaded, die and decompose. During this phase new leaf growth is offset by the death of older leaves.
  • Adjust grazing and rest periods to keep plants in Phase II. Do not graze plants so short that they enter phase I as regrowth is very slow, or that they enter phase III as shading and senescence reduces photosynthesis. The harvest of energy is maximized by keeping plants in phase II.
  • In higher stocked continuously grazed pastures, regrowth will be grazed quite frequently. The phase 1 regrowth is highly nutritious, but is generally not enough to support high levels of animal production.
  • Lightly stocked continuously grazed pastures consist of patches of plants in phase I and phase III. If animals are forced to eat phase III material, their daily intake will drop resulting in lower animal performance.
  • Overgrazing is a function of time and occurs when a plant is grazed before it has recovered from previous grazing. This occurs by either leaving stock in a paddock too long or bringing them back too soon.
  • Severe grazing indicates that a lot of the plant is removed. Decreasing grazing severity reduces recovery time and increases the productivity of the pasture. A severely grazed plant is not necessarily overgrazed. Neither severe grazing nor overgrazing is desirable over the long term.
  • Pasture growth rates change depending on the plant species, plant vigor, day length, temperature, fertility and moisture. Slow growth requires longer recovery time and fast growth allows for shorter recovery time.
  • The amount of forage consumed and the quality of the diet changes during an animal's stay in a paddock. Initially they graze selectively, eating the best first, avoiding coarser, less palatable, less nutritious feed. Over time, the remaining forage is less palatable and stock spoil more through trampling and dung and urine contamination.
  • Shorten graze periods in a given area, maintain adequate recovery periods to increase total pasture production, minimize forage waste, improve utilization and nutrition for livestock and to increase control of the amount of residue.
  • Stock density defines the number of animals in a particular paddock at any moment in time and increases as the number of animals increase or as paddock size decreases.
  • High stock density promotes uniform utilization and distribution of manure and urine. Pastures with low stock density usually appear "patchy" with patches grazed very short and others consisting of mature vegetation.
  • Use the largest herd consistent with good animal husbandry practices. Combine herds to increase number of paddocks and stock density.
  • Adequate time control for plant recovery can be achieved with 8 paddocks. To get positive effects from stock density use 16 paddocks or more. The "right" number of paddocks depends on desired rest and graze periods, and stock density.
Fact Sheets

A Guide to Management Intensive Grazing

Choosing Forages for Maximum Grazing Availability - available in PDF format

Creep Grazing For Beef Calves

Deciding when to make your move - available in PDF format

Getting Started with Intensive Grazing

Grazier’s Arithmetic

Grazing Distribution - available in PDF format

Grazing Planning - available in PDF format

Grazing Systems Planning Guide - available in PDF format

Improving Pasture Productivity - Working with the Weather

Length of the Grazing Period: Does it Really Matter

Out of Feed: The Vicious Cycle - available in PDF format

Planning a Grazing System: Assessing Resources and Setting Goals - available in PDF format

Prescription Grazing, a Best Management Practice for Aspen

Principles of Controlled Grazing - available in PDF format

Management of Intensive Livestock Grazing

Rotational Grazing

Rotational Grazing in Extensive Pastures - available in PDF format

Rotational Grazing: The Rest and Recovery Method of Pasture Management

Targeted Grazing Management

Farming with Grasslands Birds

Research Papers

Bromus-Poa response to defoliation intensity and frequency under three soil moisture levels - available in PDF format only

Comparison of techniques for estimation of forage dry matter intake of grazing beef cattle - available in PDF format only

Defoliation Regime Effects on Accumulated Season-long Herbage Yield and Quality in Boreal Grassland - available in PDF format only

Effects of grazing dates on forage and beef production of mixed prairie rangeland - available in PDF format only

Grazing impacts on soil nitrogen and phosphorus under Parkland pastures - available in PDF format only

Grazing intensity impacts on pasture carbon and nitrogen flow - available in PDF format only

History of Grazing Research in the Aspen Parkland - available in PDF format only

Impacts of grazing systems on soil compaction and pasture production in Alberta - available in PDF format only

Patterns and simulation of soil water under different grazing management systems in central Alberta - available in PDF format only

Prescription Grazing, a Best Management Practice for Aspen - available in PDF format only

Review: Grazing preference in sheep and cattle: Implications for production, the environment and animal welfare - available in PDF format only

Quantification and Simulation of Grazing Impacts on Soil Water in Boreal Forests - available in PDF format only

Temperate grass response to extent and timing of grazing - available in PDF format only

Vegetation response to time-controlled grazing on Mixed and Fescue Prairie - available in PDF format only
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Janet Fletcher.
This information published to the web on September 3, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 18, 2017.

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