What Is Intensive Grazing?

5.19.2022 | Brian Gale

Every grazing animal has the ability to distinguish between the plants they eat. Some plants are preferred, and eaten first, some are eaten only after everything else is gone. In order to provide an opportunity for a variety of plants to be grown, which increases soil health and productivity, and ensure that all plants are being utilized, animals are placed in very small subdivisions of a pasture, called paddocks. Each paddock is used for a relatively brief period, then rested for a long period, allowing the plants a chance to regrow. This system of thoroughly managing animals and land is generally called Intensive Grazing. Some newer names are used, Management Intensive Grazing, or Mob Grazing, but we prefer the older term.

Intensive Grazing does not mean the plants are grazed down to bare ground, in fact, for optimal plant production, much edible forage is left behind. These leaves provide access to solar energy so the plant can immediately regrow, rather than having to access energy stored in the root. By always leaving some leaves behind, each plant will be able to produce more forage throughout the entire growing/grazing season.

Because animals are moved from paddock to paddock on a regular basis, some internal parasites, whose life cycles require a period outside of the animal, are unable to survive. This provides more animal growth by more efficient use of grass.

Our fields are continually irrigated, by center-pivot machine, giving the soil the perfect moisture for growth of plants, micro-organisms, worms, and bugs. We’ve found that even at the end of the growing season, there just aren’t any cow pies left behind. They all get incorporated into the soil. This makes for a marvelous increase in soil organic matter content.

Finally, Intensive Grazing provides each animal an opportunity to see the grass diminish each day, this triggers a sort of “competitive eating” behavior in the stock. Cattle will eat more, and thereby grow more, during the short summer period. This allows a yearling to reach weight quicker, or a cow to be in better body condition to begin winter.