Saturday, June 6, 2009

Intensive rotational grazing

Intensive rotational grazing is the best type of grazing in my opinion. Intensive rotational grazing means moving the animals every 12 hours to 4 or 5 days. I move my sheep every 2 days and a lot of grazing dairy cow people move the cows every 12 hours-every milking. The reasons to move the animals so often are somewhat dependent on ones schedule (I don't have time to move my sheep every 12 hours.) The pen/paddock sizes depend on how much forage there is, how many animals there are and how long you want them on that area. It takes just a few rotations to be able to figure out how much they will eat in that amount of time you want to give them.

Why bother rotating? The reasons are quite simple. All grazing animals will eat their favorite grasses/plants down to the dirt and kill them off, leaving the forages the don't like as much to get hard and mature. When you move them often they don't get that choice and the pastures are healthier and you actually can feed more animals on that amount of land. Another reason is parasites. If you are constantly moving them to a new patch of grass they are not going to be eating grass that they pooped on a week ago. You keep them off it until the grass regrows. When you put them back on that is usually that is enough time to kill off most parasites. Also if you leave a 2-3 in residue the animals will not ingest many parasites. (Parasites stay down close the the dirt where it is cool.) Also since you are always moving them the water tubs will be moved with them preventing that mud/manure build up and the sheep will be cleaner.

What kind of fencing do I use? I use electro netting as well as permanent fencing for my sheep and goats. I use a single strand of electric fence and step in posts for the heifer and steer.

Here is a picture of the electro netting rolled up.
Here is a picture of the electro netting in use. There are two strands up right now. When I need to move the sheep and goats I'll put a third strand up behind them and they will move on. The right hand side has been grazed. There is permanent fence on two side of this paddock.

Here is a picture of the cattle fence in use. I use a small battery fencer (the blue box.)

Here is the extra fence that is not in use. I'll use this to make the next pen and after they cattle move I'll take down the old pen's fence. I do move the cattle every day as they don't graze as nicely as sheep and goats.

One can use electric fence on a reel for sheep, but you need 4-6 strands. (I think the netting is easier, but I have not tried it.)

I'll talk about what forages I have and want in my pasture on my next post.


  1. How nice! To have pastures with real grass growing! Do you mow your fields at times to keep the long spots trimed or do the animals keep it under control? My sheep don't always eat the seed heads.

  2. I should mow after they are done grazing, but I don't have a tractor. The grass stems disappear after it gets dry in the summer. I think they get dyed out and the sheep trample them down. My sheep eat most grass seed heads, but they don't like June grass seed heads.

  3. Laura, where did you buy your temp fencing from? I'm thinking about buying some myself. The only place I know has it is Premiere.

  4. I use the ElectroNet that is 164' x 35" from Premiere.

  5. Do your angoras get their horns caught in the netting? I also have angoras and need some moveable fencing but I worry about the horns.

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