Vermont Pasture Network
landscape and topography are well suited to pasture-based
production. Rotational grazing uses permanent pastures for the
primary feed of
livestock. Instead of a system of annual plowing, re-planting and barn
feeding of forage crops, livestock on rotationally grazed farms are
pasture to pasture and self-harvest most of their own feed. The farmer
closely monitors the health of both the animals and the pasture plants
to ensure that optimal feed conditions are met.
The decreased need for mechanical harvesting and manure handling mean these "grass" farmers are able to reduce their equipment and fuel costs.
In addition, emerging information about the high nutritional content of grass-fed meat and milk products is raising consumer awareness about the benefits of grass farming.
Grass farmers choose to rotationally graze their animals for many different reasons, but the positive effects of this way of farming show in the beautiful working landscape, clean water, healthy local communities, profitable farms, and high quality of life.
What is Rotational Grazing?Rotational grazing has many names, levels of intensity, and methods of management.
Known as Management Intensive Grazing (MIG), "grass farming," "rotational pasture management," "prescribed grazing", or "holistic planned grazing", the essential keys to this management are exposing animals to limited grazing areas for set periods of time, then adequate periods of rest for the grass. This is sometimes called "management intensive", because the system requires careful management to ensure that animals to do not trample or eat grass so close to the ground that its regrowth is hampered. It is sometimes called "prescribed" if grazing systems are set up in advance, paddocks are numbered, and movement of the animals progresses in a prescribed order.
In some systems, the grass is managed at a slightly taller height, and in some, a lower height. Some move animals every 12 hours, some move them on a three-day rotation. Management systems can be adjusted to address animal, soil, forage and farmer needs, as long as that essential combination of grazing, rest, and regrowth are included.
Managed, rotational grazing is an environmentally and economically viable system of forage-based animal production. Working with farmers and other agricultural agencies to promote this system is one of the UVM Centerfor Sustainable Agriculture's main program priorities.
Last modified December 19 2005 12:04 PM