So what is the actual advantage to a having a greater number of pastures? In one word, the advantage is control–especially control over time and stock density. The greater the number of pastures, the greater the amount of flexibility in dealing with the various stages of the carbohydrate storage cycle.
The “rule of thumb” essentially boils down to this: During periods of active growth (e.g. immediately following a rain during the growing season), shorten the grazed period (perhaps to only one day). This allows the animals to graze very selectively (even take nothing but seed heads if they desire) but not for long enough on each area to significantly defoliate the plants. Then, during periods of no growth, the grazed period can be lengthened to a period likely dictated by the nutritional needs of the livestock.
Also note that you should never become dogmatic about any sequence or order of movement. Always maintain the flexibility to achieve your goals without damage to the range. For example, if you have a poisonous plant problem in one pasture (paddock) during a certain time of the year, simply stay out of that paddock during that time of the year. I am aware of a good example to illustrate this point. One of this particular rancher’s pastures (paddocks) bordered a railroad track. He was afraid of fire caused by the train. Therefore, as soon as the forage was in good dormancy, he moved his herd into that area and kept them there until it was defoliated beyond danger.
Remember, it doesn’t hurt a perennial grass plant to defoliate it when it is dormant. However, there is one point of caution. As the plant is progressively defoliated, its nutritional quality diminishes and livestock condition becomes a concern. This drawback has been mitigated through supplementation programs. One approach that I have seen work well is keeping urea and molasses available free choice to the livestock. This has led to an interesting observation. By monitoring the daily consumption of molasses and urea one can readily tell when the livestock should be moved. As long as they are getting what they need on the range they will pretty much leave it alone. Then one day, all of a sudden, per head consumption will skyrocket. They are saying “it’s time to move on to fresh pasture.”
Furthermore, the greater the number of pastures, the better control you have over Stock Density. We pick up there with Part IV. Stock Density vs. Stocking Rate.
Source: Transcript of a Tape Recorded Session Made at Alan Savory and Stan Parson’s Rancher School. Albuquerque, NM. Spring 1982.
Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume [send him mail] is President and CEO of Land & Livestock International, Inc.
- Cell Grazing: Part I. Introduction (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)
- Cell Grazing: Part II. Range Rest (for those who are really into that sort of thing) (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)
- Managing the Ranch as a Business: The Role of Time (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)
- The Myth that is Conventional Range Management (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)
- Getting Into the Cattle Business: Buying a Ranch and Making it Pay (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)
- Managing the Ranch as a Business: Key Insights. (landandlivestock.wordpress.com)