Grass Needs Non-selective, Or Severe Grazing

The Grazier's Art

The grazier’s goal is to mimic the grazing of huge, free-roaming herds for the good of forage and cattle.

Published on: August 8, 2013

Continuous grazing together with low animal impact has been the cause for the degradation of grassland the world over.

This practice, while very low in labor requirements, allows the fenced-in animals to re-graze individual forage plants before each has had the opportunity to replenish energy reserves.

It may also allow some individual forage plants to get over-rested. The problem with those individual plant is they become moribund, meaning they have their growing points shaded by their own tiller or stems.

By allowing low-impact, selective grazing we will have in the same pasture individual forage plants that are re-grazed and are short with very short roots along with other plants which are over-rested and are dying from lack of sunlight reaching their growing points.

The overall result is a degraded pasture which in dry conditions will have plants die from both short roots and senescence.  This, coupled with the lack of animal impact in general will inhibit the recruitment of new seedlings.

Another way of thinking about this is that one cow walking to water 365 days in the same path causes compaction  and is completely different from 365 cows walking to water in one day. This is the same amount of animal days per acre but the herd of 365 would give good animal impact with aerated soil and a good seedbed, while the single cow would create a trail and the inconsistently grazed pasture we just discussed.

The opposite of low-density or low-animal-impact  selective grazing would be high-density or high animal impact, non-selective grazing which has short graze times and adequate recovery times.

This is what grasslands require to be productive and maintain health. It is how they were developed together with huge herds of severe grazers which were kept grouped together by predators. Further, the recovery grasses need was provided because these huge herds were able to migrate on to fresh forage due to the lack of fences.

So, the question is how do we recreate this environment under modern conditions?

The simple answer is we need to manage the grassland for severe grazing and create the predator effect to have success.

I will write more about how to do this in my next few blogs.