Grazing Systems

Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
(SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook


Tom and Maud Powell and Michael Moss, Sustainable Farmers, Jackson County, OR.
Technical advisor: Tim Franklin, Jacksonville, OR.
Curriculum advisor: Peter O’Connell, Jacksonville, OR.
Web advisor: National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, MT.

Published 2007
Updated 2010


Grazing Systems

Learning Objectives
The learner will:

  • Understand the ecology of pastures and key biological attributes of pasture plants.
  • Learn to identify important pasture species.
  • Become familiar with grazing systems that build or maintain soil fertility and pasture diversity.
  • Learn how to calculate and manage forage production.
  • Learn strategies for extended season grazing and winter feeding.
  • Learn how to manage hay fields as part of the pasture rotation.


Pasture Ecology

  • Biotic diversity
  • Functional roles of different plant groups
    • Grasses fine, fibrous roots hold and build soil
    • Legumes fix nitrogen
    • Other plants (chicory) have deep taproots to keep soil open deeper down
    • Plant that scavenge and accumulate certain minerals or compounds are important to the health of livestock and wildlife
  • Below ground productivity, diversity (more livestock below than above) greater than in annual cropping systems
  • Grassland plants and herbivory


Pasture Renovation

  • Establishment vs. Improving existing pastures
    • Establishment expensive and takes time: tilling, seeding, weed management, no grazing until plants well established
    • Drilling or broadcasting / harrowing into existing pastures


Forage Production

  • Seasonal growth curve
  • How to calculate forage production using small plots
  • Warm season vs. cool season species
  • Pasture mixes: legumes, grasses, and “weeds”
  • Stockpiling
  • Rotational Grazing Systems


Management Intensive Grazing (MIG)

  • Some History: Andre Voisin, Allan Savory, Joel Salatin
  • Stubble Height: no less than 3-4″
  • Rest periods: depend on season
  • Fencing
  • Water
  • Minerals
  • Labor requirements


Fertility Management

  • Root production and die-off plays key role in maintaining fertility
  • Nutrient cycling:
    • Livestock return most nutrients to the soil:
      • 70% of what goes in comes out again
      • Phosphorous and minerals returned through manure
      • Nitrogen and potassium returned through urine
  • Manure / compost / compost tea applications
    • Timing important
    • Good to know what’s in manure or compost
    • Recycle winter feed if possible
    • Tea cost effective way to cover lots of ground
  • Mineral may be required
    • Avoid dolomite lime
    • Gypsum good for this area (helps increase Ca:Mg ratio)
    • Other mineral sources


Winter Feed

  • Hay production from pastures (spring cutting)
  • Hay vs. silage
  • Feeding facilities/areas: considerations



  • Describe forage plants you would hope to find in a healthy perennial pasture.
  • How do you measure forage production?
  • Describe nutrient cycling in pastures.
  • What is Management Intensive Grazing?




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