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Topics : Pastures : 4 Steps to Rotational Grazing

4 Steps to Rotational Grazing

  • Introduction
  • STEP 1: Determine Number of Animal Units
  • STEP 2: Estimate Number of Acres Needed
  • STEP 3: Estimate the Number of Paddocks Needed
  • STEP 4: Estimate Size of Each Paddock

Additional pasture information via the Forage Information System (FIS)


Step 3: Estimate number of paddocks needed.

The number of paddocks needed for a rotational grazing system will depend on the number of days the animals graze in a paddock and the maximum summer rest period needed. Rest periods should be based on the growth rate of the pasture and will vary depending on the season and weather conditions (Table 4).

Growth rate will be affected by soil productivity and fertility levels. Therefore, even within a pasture system rest periods will vary. The best way to manage this situation is to not use a set rotational scheme, but move animals to those paddocks which have reached their optimum available pasture. Keep animals off a particular paddock until it reaches its desired optimum available pasture.

Spring management usually involves diverting some of the paddocks out of the rotation scheme and using the forage for hay or silage. This effectively shortens the rest period between grazings and improves utilization of rapid spring growth.

Paddock = (Max. rest period/Grazing period) +1 number

Example herd

The herd will graze each paddock for three days and the maximium rest period between grazings will be 35 days.

(35 days rest/3 days grazing) + 1 = 13 paddocks

Note: Species and class of grazing animal may determine the grazing period. Lactating dairy cows need consistent quality forage; therefore, the grazing period may be anywhere from .5 to 2 days. Beef cows, brood ewes and most other ruminants do not require as consistent a quality forage and a grazing period of 3 or more days may suffice.