|Rotational grazing is a process whereby livestock are strategically moved to fresh paddocks, or partitioned pasture areas, to allow vegetation in previously grazed pastures to regenerate.
Rotational grazing encourages an even distribution of grazing throughout a paddock, allowing resting periods in between rotations that help maintain the health of forage. This discourages competition from weeds and undesirable plant species that often invade when forage is overgrazed and weakened. The alternative – continuous grazing – is a more widespread management practice in which livestock are permitted to graze anywhere. Continuous grazing often leads to overgrazed and undergrazed areas throughout a pasture.
Rotational grazing is more efficient and productive because it reduces this waste since livestock are only permitted to feed in paddocks for a limited period of time. This gives the farmer more control by coordinating the rotation of livestock to paddocks where forage growth is at peak production (high in nutrition and easy to digest).
Less wasted forage results in lower costs from not having to supplement livestock diets with purchased harvested forage. Proper management of paddocks and coordinating the growth of seasonal plant communities throughout the year can enable livestock to graze throughout the winter.
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Other advantages of rotational grazing and include:
- Longer grazing season because of shorter forage recovery periods when rotating paddocks;
- Improved animal productivity;
- More efficient use of forage compared to continuous grazing; and
- Improved nutrient distribution (manure) since livestock have fixed schedules, each rotation covering a limited area in each paddock.
- Limited soil compaction which encourages root growth and reduces leaching of fertilizers;