Managed grazing is when livestock only graze in one part of a pasture (paddock) at a time, allowing the other parts of the pasture to “rest” in between, which promotes the growth of grasses.
Managed grazing is beneficial for two reasons: it ensures the livestock is well-fed, and it keeps the grasses healthy and growing. All too often we associate a livestock pasture with dead or weed-infested land. This is because livestock sit in one pasture and continue to eat the same grass day after day. But say goodbye to those barren pastures, because managed grazing will fix all of that.
How does it work?
With grasses, there is an optimal time to cut it back and an optimal time to let it grow. If the grass is cut back too early, it loses energy and doesn’t grow back as quickly. If the grass is allowed to grow too long without being cut back, it also begins to lose energy. So there is a perfect time right in the middle where grazing livestock is not only beneficial to the animal, but beneficial to the grass.
The growth period of grasses varies on the season. In the summer, grasses grow rapidly; in the winter, a little slower. Say for the summer, a grass would need ten days in between being cut (grazed by livestock). You have five acres of land divided into five paddocks for your livestock. Your livestock start in Paddock A, and then rotate their way around at two days per paddock. After being in five paddocks for two days each, by the time they reach Paddock A again, ten days have passed, and the grass is ready to be grazed. For other seasons, the time per paddock may shorten or elongate. (Grazing the Surface)
Implementing grazed management can seem daunting at first. There are higher labor costs, the need for fencing around individual paddocks, and the necessity for available water at each paddock. (PennState Extension)
What are the benefits?
In addition to revitalizing pastures and keeping livestock well-fed, livestock fed through managed grazing have been found to yield upwards of $200 more per animal than other non-managed grazing livestock. It is sustainable and profitable. (Pastures for Profit)
Where is this happening?
Managed grazing is happening across the world, but it is also practiced in our own backyard. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department supports the use of managed grazing and even provides a few pointers on how to practice it yourself. For a list of Houston restaurants and businesses that use managed grazing and provide organic, grass fed food, check out Eat Wild.