Implementing rotational grazing practices improves forage productivity. Plants often show an improvement not only in growth but rate of regrowth. Improvements in soils seen by rotationally grazing directly impact forage growth. These benefits are realized through reduced erosion, decreased soil compaction, and improved manure distribution.

Alfalfa Grazing

More Groundcover Decreases Erosion

When using rotational grazing, cattle should be removed from cool-season pastures when residual forage is three to four inches high. By leaving this amount of forage, the soil is protected from rain, wind, and trampling while minimizing run-off and erosion. Thus, more water is made available for plant growth. Reducing soil erosion allows for nutrients and organic matter to be retained. In addition to protecting soil structure, leaving adequate forage height improves forage regrowth.

Compaction Reduced

Rotating cattle to a new paddock or pasture every three to seven days reduces time cattle spend creating high traffic areas. Areas for shade and water need to be rotated or constructed with materials which decrease soil compaction. Compaction is detrimental to soils because it restricts air and water movement. When soils are compacted pore space is reduced which changes soil structure, water infiltration capability, and amount of organic matter. Air and water movement are important for plants to take up nutrients and retain soil organic matter. Thus, a sacrifice area is important during wet conditions.

Better Distribution of Manure

When paddocks are designed so that cattle travel no more than 800 feet to water, manure is more evenly distributed. Manure contributes organic matter and nutrients to soils. Besides manure, organic matter in soils comes from decaying roots and plants leaves. Providing organic matter to soils increases plant root health and forage productivity.

When cattle are rotated in a regular pattern, grazing pressure is more uniform. Uniform grazing pressure allows producers to have consistent groundcover, reduced compaction, and increased soil organic matter, all of which builds soils. Soil is important because it allows for greater forage production. The greater forage production, the more day’s cattle can graze and less time is spent supplementing with hay and grain.