INT 1 Measuring the impact of planned grazing on forage, soil and cattle health and productivity

 
 

Project Details

At this Brookdale Research Field, MBFI is researching the effect of grazing management on soil, forage and animal productivity. This page provides information about this particular research project; including the background, objectives, and updates.

  • Project Lead: Pam Iwanchysko, Farm Production Extension-Forage (Manitoba Agriculture) | Send Email
  • Project Start: June 2015
  • Project Status: In Progress
  • Location: Brookdale Research Field

For more Information Click here to View our 2015  Technical Bulletins

For more Information Click here to View our 2016 Technical Bulletins

About This Project

It is hypothesized that planned grazing (also commonly known as mob grazing or high intensity grazing) will increase soil, forage and animal health, and production. However, this management style can require more time and resources to accomplish than other less intensive rotational grazing styles. This project will compare two types of grazing: planned grazing and continuous grazing.

Objectives

  1. To compare the impact of planned grazing and continuous grazing on soil health and forage productivity.
  2. To determine the time and resources required to implement and maintain both grazing styles.
  3. To demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of planned grazing and continuous grazing strategies.

 

Updates

As of March 2017- Twenty five cow/calf pairs will be placed on the 90 acres of the 22 grazing paddocks and 25 cow/calf pairs will be placed on 90 acres of a continuous grazing system with similar forage species in each grazing system.  The planned grazing herd will begin grazing on May 15, whereas the continuous grazing herd will begin grazing on June 1, as there was little to no residue left on the continuous grazing system from previous grazing year. Forage sampling will occur on both the continuous and planned paddocks prior to planned cattle moving into new paddock for the grazing season. Forage residue sampling will occur at the end of the grazing season. Soil sampling will take place over the entirety of the summer.

As of November 2016-Fencing was re-established to develop a continuous pasture this past spring and to divide the grazing system into equal grazing acres that included very similar forage species in each, thus being able to compare the grazing systems on the same level.  Water lines were also completed across the project to make access to a watering bowl available at all paddocks. Species compostion sites were completed and GPS co-ordinates were taken at all sites for future evaluations. Carbon monitoring sites were set up across the grazing systems. More fencing repairs will be required next spring as some of the existing fencelines are in disrepair prior to MBFI taking the site over. 

As of June 2016 - In 2016 the cows started grazing on this project on May 30th. Twenty-five cows were placed on the planned grazing management style while another 25 cows have been placed on a continuous grazing management style. Once a day the planned grazing group is moved to a new pasture and forage samples are taken from both grazing management styles. There are 22 paddocks in the planned grazing which are approximately 4 acres each. The 4 acre paddocks are then split in half using a single strand temporary wire and temporary posts. The continuous grazing cattle have 89 acres to graze for the growing season. The planned grazing cattle receive water by over-ground water pipe with multiple spigots which allow for water to be placed in every paddock they are in. Whereas the continuous grazing cattle have one watering site. The cows are also calving on pasture at this time and we have not had any problems with moving the planned grazing cattle every day.

As of September 2015 - Fifty cow-calf pairs were grazed at the Brookdale site during the summer of 2015; 25 on the rotational grazing fields and 25 on the planned grazing fields. Each of the grazing styles had approximately 100 acres separated into smaller pastures by cross fencing. Additionally, the planned grazing fields had temporary wire and step-in posts to create 1-acre pastures.

It is important to note that the purpose of this trial was not to compare the performance of the rotational grazed cattle to that of the planned grazing cattle in terms of performance. Rather, the performance data was collected to use as a baseline for future years. More importantly it is hypothesized that the soil health and forage production will increase on the planned grazing fields. In this first year of monitoring, there were no surprises with regards to the results collected. Baseline forage and soil production measurements were recorded. Animal performance data was also collected. The planned grazing herd grazed more native forages than the rotational grazing herd. When sampled, the native pastures had lower nutritional value than the tame forages which explains the the lower average daily gain on the planned grazing animals than the rotational grazing animals. It will be important to continue to compile the same measurements in future years of grazing to see if, in fact, planned grazing can improve the resulting forage and soil health, while maintaining the same animal performance. Observationally the foxtail barley in the planned grazing pastures was decreased during the grazing season. This will be monitored further.