Improvements in grassland and grazing management can offer significant opportunities for livestock farms throughout Scotland. Grass is the cheapest feed available on the farm, but it is only cheap if the pastures produce a high yield and a high proportion of that yield is utilised to produce meat and milk.
After soil health (covered in the soil section), the next area for pasture improvement is grazing management. Set stocking and rotational grazing are the two overarching grazing management techniques. Set stocking is where animals are kept in a field for a duration greater than two weeks. Rotational grazing entails frequently shifting of livestock through a series of small fields or paddocks. Where set stocking offers the benefit of simplicity, it does not maximise the utilisation of the grass, areas of the field are rejected and wasted where other areas of the field might be overgrazed.
Rotational grazing results in greater utilisation of grass which means that the animals are faced with a more even sward of quality grass when they enter a paddock. The improved quality, quantity and utilisation of grass under a rotational grazing regime enables greater stocking rates, improved animal performance and reduced inputs (e.g. nitrogen and concentrate feed).
Finally sward regeneration with reseeding can benefit pastures that have a high proportion of weeds. The longevity of a reseed will be compromised if soil and grazing management are inadequate.
2020 Grazing Vlogs
A series of video updates following farmers through a grazing season showing the challenges and benefits of operating a rotational grazing system for livestock performance and welfare.
The farmers include:
- William Willis, Dairy Farmer, Aberdeenshire
- Ian Dickson, Beef and Sheep Farmer, Isle of Bute
- Giles Henry, Beef Farmer, Selkirk
- Jamie Leslie, Beef and Sheep Farmer, Shetland
The four farmers are using rotational grazing to make more from grass. Join us in following their developments at the 2020 grazing season unfolds.