Tactical grazing management

Successful grazing managers have the flexibility to move between different grazing methods according to seasonal conditions and livestock demands.  

These managers can consistently maintain high pasture utilisation without compromising groundcover targets. They tend to calculate seasonal feed budgets and pasture mass targets, which are supported by grazing records and resource monitoring.

Tactical grazing management can:

A focus on the objectives (what the grazing method is aiming to achieve) almost invariably points producers towards a mix of grazing methods through the year or over successive years. Some grazing management objectives are listed in the table below.

 

Objective

 

Management options

 

Timing of application for specific situations

Increase pasture utilisation

  • Rotational grazing system based on time or plant growth criteria
  • Paddock subdivision, higher stocking rates and matching calving/lambing time to pasture supply to enhance utilisation, for both rotational and set stocked grazing methods.
  • Rotationally graze all year, to prevent selective grazing. Stop rotating if livestock performance is negatively impacted at critical times (lambing, or during finishing)

Increase pasture growth

  • Rotational grazing systems, especially those based on plant growth criteria, give some gain.
  • The biggest gains in pasture growth are usually achieved through improved fertility and/or introduced sown species, rather than grazing method.
  • All year for perennials to have long-term impact on pasture composition. 
  • Seasonally, if aim is only to increase growth rates at a particular time of the year (eg for increased autumn/winter growth it is possibleto start rotating at the end of summer and stop in spring).

Control stock intake

  • Rotational grazing system based on animal intake criteria.
  • Short periods during the specific time period when livestock intake needs to be regulated. This could be all year in the case of some precision operations such as bull beef.

Provide for specific livestock management needs

  • Set stocking is often best for lambing, finishing livestock for market and for some management operations such as single sire mating or controlling footrot.
  • Rotational grazing is often best for internal parasite control and for regular livestock monitoring.
  • Short periods only - the specific management needs (such as lambing, finishing, or controlling a disease outbreak) often have only short-term demands.

Manipulate pasture composition

  • To increase perennial grass content: use a rotational grazing system based on time or plant growth criteria (this will also reduce broadleaf weeds) or rest over summer (this will also reduce annual grasses).
  • To increase sub-clover content: set stock or, if rotationally grazing, reduce the rest period (this can also increase broadleaf weeds).
  • To reduce annual grasses and reduce weeds: rest over winter to minimise tillering and elevate growing points followed by short-term, high-density grazing during early spring.
  • To manage woodland thickening: deliberate, planned and managed burning.
  • All year for rotational grazing or tactical rest in successive summers if aim is to increase perennials and produce a large impact on pasture composition and root growth. Some perennials have particular times when rest is required.
  • Seasonally, if trying to boost sub-clover content, then high grazing pressure during late winter-early spring may be sufficient.
  • Seasonally, if annual grasses dominate. Should be combined with tactical rest in summer to increase competition from perennial grasses.
  • Burning is best carried out according to seasonal conditions and fuel load.

Improve persistence of perennials

  • Perennial grasses ‘prefer’ rotational grazing, using the rest between grazings to rebuild root reserves essential for growth and persistence.
  • Seed set and seedling recruitment are important in some short-lived perennials and native grasses (eg Austrodanthonia).
  • All year, to have large impact on pasture composition and root growth. Less drought-tolerant species (eg cocksfoot, perennial ryegrass) need to be rested for periods during summer in dry areas, or not grazed lower than 1000kg DM/ha. 
  • Species that rely on seedling recruitment need to be rested during seed-set and germination. Most perennials can easily survive periods of set stocking every year (to allow other objectives to be met) as long as some rests are provided.

Improve environmental sustainability

 

  • Rotational grazing systems based on time or plant growth criteria to maximise perennial content, water use, groundcover etc..
  • Set stocking can be highly sustainable, provided the stocking rate is lower, paddocks do not contain extreme variations in topography or land class, and low groundcover and biomass in autumn does not pose a significant erosion risk.
  • Wet season spelling can be used to improve land condition and accumulate biomass in northern production systems
  • Rotational graze all year, if trying to increase perennial grass content and prevent selective grazing, camping and baring-out of areas, or for higher risk land classes.
  • Strategically, if simply maintaining an already sustainable system. The sustainability of rotational systems is not compromised by occasional set stocking to meet other objectives.
Manuals and guides
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Develop a plan for my grazing system

Divide up my farm for improved grazing management

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