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Select suitable grazing method to assure success

Selecting a grazing method early in the season and managing it properly can help beef producers succeed in achieving their summer production goals, said Dirk Philipp, associate professor of animal science and forage researcher for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“A grazing method should not be confused with a grazing system,” Philipp said. “A grazing method is a defined technique of grazing management designed to achieve a desired outcome in forage removal.”

 

The two most common examples of grazing methods, Philipp said, are continuous stocking and rotational stocking.

 

In continuous stocking, animals are kept always on the same area, Philipp said. It’s an easy and uncomplicated setup, useful when producers have time constraints or lack funds to invest in a more complex paddock setup. It’s also useful when there are insufficient fences or water sources to permit subdivision of grazing lands.

 

Continuous stocking can be used when available forage can withstand occasional overgrazing in some areas. Forages like toxic fescue and bermudagrass are persistent enough to endure such conditions, Philipp said.

 

Avoid using continuous stocking when:

  • Forage base is sensitive to frequent defoliation, as is the case with legumes;
  • Intending to portion out forages, especially in high-quality forages like alfalfa;
  • Grazing annual forages for which money and time was invested.

 

Rotational stocking offers more control of forage use and defoliation, Philipp said. It is also more suitable for a solid, long-term forage management plan.

 

Some things to consider for a rotational stocking method, Philipp said, include adequate fences and water access, or a plan to install them.

 

Consider planting forages that benefit from cyclical defoliation, Philipp said. Novel endophyte tall fescue, native warm-season grasses or legumes are good choices. Forages with large regrowth potential, such as cool season grasses early in the season, are also suitable for use in rotational stocking, he said.

 

Philipp said rotational stocking is difficult to use if:

  • The basic paddock infrastructure is not installed;
  • Budgets aren’t controlled or inputs and outputs aren’t accounted for;
  • A long-term business and forage management plan is not in place.

 

University of Arkansas

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Terry Simmons