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.
Set stocking describes the practice of grazing livestock in a paddock for an extended period.
Under such a regime:
- the paddock is rarely rested
- the stocking rate is usually calculated so that the number of livestock can be grazed throughout the year
- supplementary feeding may be used to correct seasonal imbalances in feed supply to demand.
Rotational grazing describes the practice of rotating livestock through a series of paddocks.
By the time the last paddock in the series has been grazed, the first has been rested allowing sufficient pasture growth for the paddock grazing sequence to commence again.
Rotational grazing involves higher paddock-by-paddock stocking rates than set stocking. It focuses on grazing plants intensively at the most nutritious stage in their growth cycle while allowing palatable species to continue to thrive by providing adequate rest time between grazing events.
- usually allows for higher overall stocking rates
- supports the persistence of palatable perennial pasture species
- may require more infrastructure and possibly a greater labour input than set stocking.
Strict adherence to either set stocking or rotational grazing is not the best way to achieve enterprise targets. Instead, tactical grazing is a flexible approach that allows producers to better meet their objectives.
Tactical grazing uses a range of grazing methods including set stocking and rotational grazing, throughout a single year or series of years, to meet different animal and pasture objectives. This allows a balance to be struck between feed supply and the demands of various classes of livestock for growth rate, reproduction and maintenance.
Tactical grazing is a relatively easy concept to implement on farms that already have some form of rotational or deferred grazing system. Such farms will already have the infrastructure (fencing and water supplies) to allow any grazing method to be used and to enable the switch between methods during the year to meet production targets.
Grazing to manage pasture species
Grazing management is critical to the productivity and persistence of pasture species. Pastures are most vulnerable to grazing during their reproduction and establishment. This can be used to manage the species composition in a pasture – grazing to target undesirable species to prevent seed set or resting desirable species to encourage seed production.
It is important to consider the grazing approach that best suits the species mix on the property.
Supplementary feeding can be used to support all grazing strategies and help match feed demand with feed supply. Supplements can be fed to compensate for a seasonal decline in pasture quality or production, or address a particular nutritional issue such as the need for additional protein, energy or minerals. However, the cost of supplementary feeding must be weighed against the benefit.
Reducing supplementary feeding costs may be achieved by:
- changing the target market
- changing the management calendar (e.g. time of lambing, calving or kidding)
- changing species or enterprise mix
- using high genetic merit animals that grow faster and can be sold while feed is available
- sowing pasture to fill a feed gap.