Monday, May 20, 2024

Ruminants Grazing Techniques and Suitable Methods

In agriculture, ruminants grazing is a method of animal husbandry whereby domestic livestock are used to convert grass and other forage into meat, milk, wool and other products, often on land unsuitable for arable farming.

Farmers may employ many different strategies of grazing for optimum production: grazing may be continuous, seasonal, or rotational within a grazing period.

Longer rotations are found in ley farming, alternating arable and fodder crops; in rest rotation, deferred rotation, and mob grazing, giving grasses a longer time to recover or leaving land fallow.

Patch-burn sets up a rotation of fresh grass after burning with two years of rest. Conservation grazing deliberately uses grazing animals to improve the biodiversity of a site.

Grazing has existed since the birth of agriculture; sheep and goats were domesticated by nomads before the first settlements were created around 7000 BC, enabling cattle and pigs to be kept.

Grazing’s ecological effects can be positive and include redistributing nutrients, keeping grasslands open or favouring a particular species over another. There can also be negative effects to the environment.

Meanwhile, in the course of raising any ruminant animal at all, quarrel must be avoided at all cost. It is not good to graze animals near the people’s farm because they will complain of your cattle for instance destroying their farm lands during grazing therefore first for the sake of good relationship with your neighbors and also for the sake of the animals health because some aggrieved people can poison grasses that animals are feeding on.

So, adequate care must be taken by people talking the animals out for grazing. In case your farm is surrounded by farms all round then you must have to get grasses for your animals in their housing rather than allowing them to graze and destroying people’s farm.

Some ruminant farmers are used to allowing their cattle walk around the neighborhood on their own grazing during the day and then return to their housing on their own at night.

Well I want to assume that you are keeping your animals in a place that is completely free of thieves and with no vehicles. In fact, there have been incidents where cattle were knocked down by vehicles even when someone is leading them in grazing talk more of when there is no one leading them.

Therefore, to avoid theft cases and accidents, it is better to graze animals with someone leading them even Normadic Fulani’s will never leave their animals to graze on their own.

There have also been cases where a ruminant farmer complains about losing interest in constructing pens for the cattle because the one he/she constructed last was pulled down by their weight. Well, the reason why the animals were able to pull down the housing was because it was not strong enough to support their weight.

It is therefore advisable that when you want to construct the next housing, you should make sure it is strong enough to support their weight because it is better to spend money and make quality housing for them than build the one that will be pulled down within a short period of time. Also always carry your consultant along during your next constructions.

 Read Also: Recommended Number of Ruminant Animals per Housing Unit for Fattening

Systems of Ruminants Grazing

Ruminants Grazing Techniques and Suitable Methods

Ranchers and range science researchers have developed grazing systems to improve sustainable forage production for livestock. These can be contrasted with intensive animal farming on feedlots.

1. Continuous Grazing

With continuous grazing, livestock is allowed access to the same grazing area throughout the year. In this method, animals are allowed to have unrestricted, uninterrupted access to a specific unit of land throughout the entire or part of the grazing season. This is often referred to as the open gate method where all gates on the farm are open and cattle have access to every field.

Continuous grazing can serve a role in livestock production where animals are encouraged to only eat the “cream of the crop”. Generally, forage utilization is low and around 35%. Stocking density for the farm is not optimized.

Another disadvantage is that manure nutrients are often concentrated in loafing areas and near water sources. Continually grazing the same plants and allowing animals to selectively graze can reduce stand persistence as targeted plants die from overgrazing.

2. Seasonal Grazing

Seasonal grazing incorporates “grazing animals on a particular area for only part of the year”. This allows the land that is not being grazed to rest and allow for new forage to grow.

3. Rotational Grazing

Rotational grazing involves dividing the range into several pastures and then grazing each in sequence throughout the grazing period. Utilizing rotational grazing can improve livestock distribution while incorporating rest period for new forage.

The rotational grazing system is developed by subdividing a large pasture into two or more smaller paddocks and grazing these paddocks in a planned sequence. This provides rest periods for plants while others are being grazed.

Once all the paddocks have been grazed, the sequence restarts with the first pasture that has been rested the longest being grazed. If done correctly, rotational grazing has many benefits including increased forage production, animal performance, and overall profitability.

Rotational grazing allows plants to remain healthy by renewing energy reserves, rebuilding plant vigor, and giving long-term maximum production. Manure nutrients are more evenly distributed across the field as well. 

4. Ley farming

In ley farming, pastures are not permanently planted, but alternated between fodder crops and/or arable crops.

5. Rest rotation

Rest rotation grazing “divides the range into at least four pastures. One pasture remains rested throughout the year and grazing is rotated amongst the residual pastures.” This grazing system can be especially beneficial when using sensitive grass that requires time for rest and regrowth.

6. Deferred rotation

Deferred rotation “involves at least two pastures with one not grazed until after seed-set”. By using deferred rotation, grasses can achieve maximum growth during the period when no grazing occurs.

7. Patch-burn

Patch-burn grazing burns a third of a pasture each year, no matter the size of the pasture. This burned patch attracts grazers (cattle or bison) that graze the area heavily because of the fresh grasses that grow as a result. The other patches receive little to no grazing.

During the next two years the next two patches are burned consecutively, then the cycle begins anew. In this way, patches receive two years of rest and recovery from the heavy grazing.

This technique results in a diversity of habitats that different prairie plants and birds can utilize mimicking the effects of the pre-historical bison/fire relationship, whereby bison heavily graze one area and other areas have opportunity to rest.

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma has been patch-burn grazed with bison herds for over ten years. These efforts have effectively restored the bison/fire relationship on a large landscape scale of 30,000 acres (12,000 ha). In the grazed heathland of Devon the periodic burning is known as swailing.

8. Riparian Area Management

Riparian area grazing is geared more towards improving wildlife and their habitats. It uses fencing to keep livestock off ranges near streams or water areas until after wildlife or waterfowl periods, or to limit the amount of grazing to a short period of time.

9. Conservation grazing

Conservation grazing is the use of grazing animals to help improve the biodiversity of a site. Due to their hardy nature, rare and native breeds are often used in conservation grazing.

In some cases, to re-establish traditional hay meadows, cattle such as the English Longhorn and Highland are used to provide grazing.

10. Cell grazing

A form of rotational grazing using as many small paddocks as fencing allows, said to be more sustainable.

11. Mob grazing

Mob grazing is a system, said to be more sustainable, invented in 2002; it uses very large herds on land left fallow longer than usual. Mob Grazing, also known as ultra-high density grazing – Mob grazing involves grazing a large concentration of livestock in a small area for a short duration.

With stocking densities between 100,000 to 500,000 lbs or more of body weight per acre, animals are usually moved several times per day. Paddocks are only grazed 2 to 3 times per year.

Long rest periods allow forages to become mature before grazing rather than being grazed in a vegetative state, allows for root systems to develop and energy stores to be built. This method forces livestock to graze everything available, rather than selecting only the lush forage. What is not grazed is trampled into the ground.

Advocates claim this method will increase soil organic matter, reduce weeds, and increase manure distribution. Using this method, forage production and stand persistence may be reduced.

Research into this method have yielded mixed results and long term effects on pastures have yet to be studied. This method requires increased labor and is best suited when grazing animals that have lower nutritional needs.

Read Also: 4 Steps to help an Orange Tree Produce Sweet Oranges


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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