Basics of management-intensive grazing (MiG) as coined by Jim Gerrish.
Although, Mr Pratt’s focus is often on finance and economics, here he explains simply one aspect of how to manage pastures for regenerative and profitable ranching.
In part I of this grazing primer we covered some names and principles for managed grazing, as well as stocking rate and stock density. Today we’ll continue along those lines with more terms and definitions.
Recovery time – This is the amount of time allowed by the grazing manager for plants to regrow after a grazing event. It is sometimes erroneously called “rest,” but this term doesn’t remind the grazing manager that plants actually need time to regrow adequate leaf material for photosynthesis and fully recharge the energy stored in crowns, rebuild root systems, and reconnect with underground life such as bacterial and mycorrhizal fungi. This is even more important than once understood, since plants trade carbohydrates with underground life for nutrients they may not be able to mine from the soil with their own root systems. Allowing plants to fully recover builds soil life and fertility, thereby increasing productivity. The most productive pasture plants also require the longest recovery time to thrive.
Graze period – This is vital information for grazing managers because the true definition of overgrazing, from the standpoint of plants, is being grazed or bitten off a second time or more before it can recover from the first grazing. This means grazing several times over several days is very damaging to individual plants, although repeated biting over a day or a few hours is not problematic.
Graze period also is inversely related to the number of paddocks used in a grazing operation. The higher the number of paddocks, the shorter the graze period.
AUDs, ADAs or cow days per acre – These are primarily measurements of the productivity of your resource. These measurements are a good way to track progress or regression over time, and is very important to help with grazing planning and management. This is very important to good managers who should be changing grazing patterns and herd makeup from year to year and season to season.
As an example how to use this, a herd of 100 dry cows weighing 1,400 pounds (140 AU equivalent) might stay in a one-acre paddock one day, producing 140 ADAs for that grazing. Two of the same grazings would produce 280 ADAs for the year. This tells the manager if rainfall and time of recovery and time of year are similar, that paddock should allow a herd of 233 600-pound steers should be able to graze one day on the same paddock (140ADA / .6 = 233).
This comparison can be weight-adjusted most simply, or more accurately adjusted by the consumption of a class of livestock and forage type. It should also be adjusted to include calves with cows according to their average weight.
Residual forage — This is the forage left behind, usually expressed as a percentage of the forage present when cattle entered the paddock. Many managers aim to leave 50% under many circumstances. If forage is ample and animal production is more desired, leaving behind a higher percentage, such as 60-75% might be the goal, leaving a residual of 25-40%. If rationing out winter forage along with protein supplement, a consumption level of perhaps 80% with only 20% residual might be the goal.
Tomorrow we’ll publish Part III.
Mob grazing, planned grazing, cell grazing, Savory grazing, MIG grazing, AMP grazing – All these terms and more have been coined to describe managed grazing. When we say managed grazing, it means cattle are being moved to fresh pasture often enough that the manager has some control over consumption level of the cattle, as well as the graze and recovery times for plants. It also implies the manager has a plan (planned grazing) for grazing that meets certain goals of both the soil-plant complex and the livestock.
MIG is management intensive grazing. AMP is adaptive multi-paddock grazing. Savory grazing was a colloquialism based on consultant Allan Savory’s early advocacy for multi-paddock grazing in the U.S.
Cell grazing refers to the once-common label of a grazing unit as a “cell,” with a grazing unit being the area where one herd is managed. This is less common terminology today. Mob grazing refers to very-high-stock-density grazing and has either Australian or South African origins.
Paddock — is the term defining an enclosure where cattle are contained for a brief grazing period. This might be a week, or more, or less. It might be a few hours. It could be made with permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary fencing.
Stocking rate – Typically refers to the number of cattle that can be run on a ranch, or more specifically the total pounds of a livestock type and class that can be run year-around. It is typically based on the number of animals that can be grazed on one-half of one-half (or 25%) of the total forage grown in a year. Arguably, this carrying capacity would not include additional animals dependent on purchase of hay and other supplemental feeds. It can be a way to measure ranch productivity, but improvements in consumption, regrowth and soil health under well-managed grazing should improve stocking rate immediately and long-term.
Why does stock density matter?
Stock density is inversely related to grazing time. The higher the stock density, the fewer pounds of forage will be available for each animal and therefore the shorter must be the grazing time. The longer you graze livestock in a paddock under any circumstances, the less residual forage you leave in the paddock and the more forage animals will consume. High stock density also increases trampling. Managing stock density also helps determine the evenness of grazing and of urine and feces distribution, and whether less-desirous plants will be grazed or left behind.
Further, high stock density is directly correlated to length of recovery time and to number of paddocks needed. Put another way, higher stock density requires more paddocks and increases length of forage recovery. In turn, that allows greater forage production and the chance to leave more forage behind, preferably much of it trampled onto the soil surface to make more available for consumption by soil life while still protecting the soil.
Published as “Grassroots of Grazing” Jim’s regular column provides “Making Change is about Creating a New Comfort Zone” in the December 2017 issue which offers his observations about how people in the grazing/farming/ranching world accept or reject change often needed for the business to survive, or more importantly, thrive so that the next generation will be willing to be involved.
His closing comments of the article: (you’ll have to buy a back issue for Jim’s full article as well as great articles by other authors)
Jim Gerrish is an independent grazing lands consultant providing service to farmers and ranchers on both private and public lands across the USA and internationally. He can be contacted through www.americangrazinglands.com
Started in 1988, Green Hills Farm Project is non-profit, family-oriented, sustainable agriculture group of like-minded farmer families who support each other in sometimes crazy ideas. Each month, we meet with a potluck and farm tour at members’ farms and ranches and once annually with an invited guest speaker. This year on 4 March, we welcome Jim Gerrish, world renowned grazing expert, back to his old stomping grounds at FSRC (Forage Systems Research Center) at Linneus, MO to share his unique perspective with a presentation entitled, “Grazing Around the World.”
Join us on Green Hills Farm Project Facebook page for upcoming events!
Here is your invitation! (GHFP meetings and farm walks are open to the world)
Jim Gerrish, author of Management-Intensive Grazing – The Grassroots of Grass Farming and Kick the Hay Habit – A Practical Guide to Year-Around Grazing, is our guest speaker at the Green Hills Farm Project annual winter seminar March 4, 2017 At FSRC (Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus, MO). Known world wide as an expert in management-intensive grazing systems, Jim is also available for private consultation. Today’s seminar “Grazing Around the World” will be exciting insight into grazing management in many different climates and cultures from Jim and his wife, Dawn’s, personal experience. American GrazingLands Services, LLC. Jim and Dawn now reside near May, Idaho.
This annual seminar has a cost of $30 per family and will include a one year membership to Green Hills Farm Project. Please bring a potluck/carry in dish for lunch. More information contact Allen Powell at 660.412.2001 or myself (tauna) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope Ya’ll Can Come!!
Here’s an old article and our operation has changed a little bit, but we still very much appreciate and use management-intensive grazing (MIG). All our pastures are subdivided into 20 acres or less paddocks with hi-tensile electric wire. With the focus on managing the grazing, our animals and soil benefit from good health.
Allen & Tauna Powell Named 2004 “Grasslanders of the Year”
A Linn County farm family was named “grasslanders” at the Missouri Forage and Grassland Council annual meeting at the Lake of the Ozarks in November, 2004.
Allen and Tauna Powell, Laclede, Mo., were named Grasslanders of the Year. The Powells operate a 3000-acre farm stocked with 800 cows that use management-intensive grazing systems. Though the majority of their calves are marketed through traditional commodity channels, the last couple years, they have been finishing calves on grass only and marketing the beef locally and on the Internet.
The Powells learned grass management techniques at grazing schools at the University of Missouri Forage Systems Research Center near Linneus, Mo.
They now serve on the advisory board for the research farm and have been instructors at the grazing schools.
The award was accepted by the family, which includes Jessica, 12; Dallas, 11; and Nathan, 8. The children are home schooled and attended the educational meetings at the MFGC conference after doing their regular homework.
Tauna said, “I thought raising pasture-finished beef was a crazy idea when I first heard it from Fred Martz (former superintendent of MU FSRC.) Now, 12 years later, we are doing it.”
MFGC is an educational association made up of graziers, educators, agency representatives and businesses. It provides support for state and regional grazing schools.
They have also initiated and support a grassland evaluation contest for high school students and travel scholarships for college students attending national meetings.
The Powells were nominated by Fred Martz, retired MU professor and grassland farmer at Columbia, Mo.
Management-intensive grazing improves production and health of pastures, increases livestock gains per acre, and reduces soil erosion. The system is based on dividing large pastures into smaller grazing paddocks. Livestock are moved every few days to give forage time to rest and regrow. Livestock always has fresh pasture to graze.
For more information about the Missouri Forage and Grasslands Council go to their web site athttp://agebb.missouri.edu/mfgc/