Strip-grazing underutilized but effective

Strip-grazing gets the most mileage out of a forage stand, but it can come at a cost of time and labour.

Strip-grazing can be highly effective for getting the most out of forages. Tweet this

Annual crops or perennials are options for strip-grazing, a technique that allows farmers to provide their livestock fresh vegetation by moving temporary fences every few hours or days, says Saskatchewan’s Lorne Klein.

Advantages

“You can almost eliminate trampling loss and get the most number of cow days per acre,” says the provincial range management extension specialist.

Other advantages include uniform manure distribution across fields, and increased ability to manage animal health risks when grazing alternative forages, such as annuals and cover crops, says Ontario’s forage and grazing specialist, Christine O’Reilly.

She explains strip-grazing is most commonly used for livestock requiring high quality forage to maintain production, such as lactating dairy cows — most typically on organic farms — and grass-finished beef cattle.

Disadvantages

Time and labour are strip-grazing’s main drawbacks.

Strip-grazing often requires a moveable water system, which can come with implementation challenges, says O’Reilly.

“Water wagons are a common solution, though they are often labour-intensive. In fields where infrastructure can be left in place, some producers run a water line with quick connection points all along it,” she says.

Not moving the water could see animals trample over previously grazed ground to reach a water source, resulting in pasture not getting the rest it needs, Klein points out.

Timesaver

O’Reilly says livestock should be moved at least once every three days, the frequency being partly determined on strip size.

“Depending on the crop, the livestock, and the manager’s goals, they may move more frequently,” she adds.

Technology can reduce the amount of time farmers spend on fence moving.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research biologist John Duynisveld notes automatic gate release timers allow farmers the flexibility to open gates whenever they choose without having to be there.

Adoption

“Strip-grazing is the best technique for grazing cover crops and standing corn, so as these practices are adopted the use of strip-grazing increases,” O’Reilly says.

Klein, however, rarely observes strip-grazing utilization, and believes it probably pays off best in the case of large herds.

Duynisveld adds the adoption rate of grazing management in general is low. He thinks part of that reflects farmers’ reluctance on spending the time necessary, but also possibly on mistakes committed by first-timers.

Bottom line

Strip-grazing is a top technique in providing fresh plants to livestock. Technology can ease implementation it also takes time and repeat attempts to fine-tune the practice, specialists say.

Article by: Richard Kamchen