Grazing management is the total process of organising livestock to make the best use of the pastures grown, or managing the frequency and intensity with which livestock graze pasture.
Pastures respond differently to grazing, and by understanding the growth characteristics of a particular pasture, grazing can be used to encourage plant growth and maintain productivity.
Grazing management is also an important factor in the management of soil, water and nutrients. If not managed well, grazing can lead to severe natural resource degradation.
Some pastures may naturally become less productive as they mature or at different stages of their production cycle. It is important to recognise this and adjust stocking rates accordingly. Overstocking at critical stages may result in irreversible damage to pastures and the need for resowing.
Grazing management considers:
Using more of the green pasture grown throughout the year is often the most cost effective way to lift the productivity of a grazing enterprise.
Grazing managers should aim to convert the largest amount of pasture energy and nutrients into saleable product while leaving pasture residue in the best condition for rapid regrowth.
Grazing should be managed to promote ground cover and good root growth, both of which are important to soil fertility and protecting the soil. To do this, a producer must understand the soils within their production system and develop a soil management and grazing plan to accommodate the environmental and enterprise requirements.
Successful graziers use a range of grazing strategies, such as set stocking and rotational grazing, throughout the year, or a series of years, to meet different animal and pasture objectives at various times. Using a range of grazing techniques and varying the approach according to the needs of the animals and the pastures is referred to as tactical grazing.
Stocking rate refers to the number of livestock in a paddock or a whole farm. Stocking density (head/ha) refers to the number of stock per hectare on a grazing area or unit at any one time. Identifying the stocking rate and stocking density that an enterprise can sustain to maximise green pasture utilisation is important in increasing the profitability.
Fodder conservation is an important tool for evening out peaks and troughs in pasture production and better matching feed demand to supply. Excess feed can be conserved in times of abundance such as during a good spring and fed when pasture production and therefore feed supply is low such as in late summer or over winter.