'Texas AgriLife Research, Texas A&M System, Vernon TX 76384 2Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-52305 3Centre for the Management of Arid Environments Locked Bag 22, Kalgoorlie, WA 6433, Australia 4United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Springfield, CO 81073 5 United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Kremmling, CO 80459 6Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843 7Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80524
The benefits of multi-paddock rotational grazing on commercial livestock enterprises have been evident for many years in many countries. Despite these observations and the results of numerous studies of planned grazing deferment before the mid-1980s that show benefit to species composition, most recent rangelands grazing studies suggest that rotational grazing benefits neither vegetation nor animal production relative to continuous grazing. Detailed comparisons of research methods and practical experiences of successful practitioners of multi-paddock grazing systems identify a number of areas that explain why such different perceptions have arisen. Consistent with producer experience, published data from small paddock trials on both temporal and spatial aspects of grazing aBSTRACT
management indicates the potential for significantly higher production under multi-paddock rotational grazing relative to continuous grazing and conservative stocking.
While research findings often suggest multi-paddock grazing management is not superior to continuous grazing, researchers have not managed trials to answer practical questions such as: how good is this management option, where is it successful, and what does it take to make it work as well as possible? In contrast, successful ranchers manage strategically to achieve the best possible profitability and ecosystem health. They use basic knowledge of plant physiology and ecology generated by research within an adaptive, goal-oriented management approach to successfully implement planned grazing management.
Published research and experience from ranchers have indicated that the following management factors are the keys to achieving desired goals: (1) Planned grazing and financial planning to reduce costs, improve work efficiency and enhance profitability and environmental goals; (2) Adjusting animal numbers or having a buffer area available so that animal numbers match forage availability in wet and dry years; (3) Grazing grasses and forbs moderately and for short periods during the growing season to allow adequate recovery; (4) Timing grazing to mitigate detrimental effects of defoliation at critical points in the life cycle of preferred species inter- and intra-annually; (5) Where significant regrowth is likely, grazing the area again before the forage has matured too much; (6) Using fire to smudge patch-grazing imprints and manage livestock distribution; and (7) Using multiple livestock species. In all these areas, management is the key to success.
Many researchers have failed to sufficiently account for these management factors, either in their treatment applications or in the evaluation of their results. To define the potential impact, researchers must quantify the management strategies for best achieving whole-ranch business and ecosystem results under different grazing management. Conducting research on ranches that have been successfully managed with planned multi-paddock grazing for many years, together with systems-level simulation modeling, offer complementary approaches to traditional small-paddock field research. These methods are particularly applicable where logistics preclude field experimentation, or when assessing impact over decadal time frames. This chapter discusses these points, suggests areas of research that may explain differences in perception among land managers and researchers, and provides information to achieve the full potential of planned multi-paddock grazing management.
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