Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Real rotational grazing

One of the things you'll hear people who raise pastured animals talk about is their "MIG" or Management Intensive Grazing" or rotational grazing of their animals.  You'll see them talk about how they do it, but when you look at what they're actually doing (via in-person visit or their blog) they really don't do what's required. 

Matron Of husbandry (She doesn't use her name on her blog by preference, see the "about" link on it) has been talking about her implementation of rotational grazing on her property, and I think it's worth looking at to see what it actually takes to do this.  Use this as a baseline when you hear someone else claiming to rotate their stock or rotationally graze.  Here's the basics:

1) There's no fixed water, mineral or other location.  The water, minerals and anything else the animal needs moves with the pasture. 
2)  It takes time to move the fences.  A half hour, an hour, whatever.  If you're truly doing the whole job, you're moving the pasture every day.  7 days a week.  No barn, no fixed feeding stations.  The whole herd moves. 
3)  There's a long recovery period after every grazing episode, measured in months in some cases. 
4)  You have to look at how the animals are doing and adjust the size of the area to be grazed based on their reactions and the growth area to be covered.

If you see someone claim to be doing some sort of rotational grazing system, you should see all 4 elements.  NO fixed feeding stations, no fixed water locations (if the animals all water at a pond, for instance, that means they have constant access to it, which also means free grazing, not rotational), and so on.   

So without further ado, here's some links to Matrons' blog entries
 Rotationally grazing mechanics, with a small herd example.  Comments include square foot suggestions. 
 Making your acreage more drought-resistant.  Joel salatin videos in this one, with a comment from yours truly about what my opinion of what salatin's system requires.  Hint:  It's not just grazing small areas.
Cows as a tool to improve land quality.

1 comment:

brentcu.com said...

Reading that article, I'd say the 'no fixed water' part is a function of ROI rather than a necessary part of the system. It sounds like she's running 20 cows and handling the water needs for that herd is ok with her compared with the cost of installing water on her distributed, forested farm.

At scale, dragging water becomes a pain in the arse and the ROI numbers change.

Thanks for the links, they were well worth reading.