I have always explained what we do is to raise grass.We then use cattle to harvest that crop.The key to using forages optimally is to rotationally graze these forages.Under rotational grazing the livestock is allowed to graze only one portion of the pasture at a time,allowing the rest of the pasture to rest.To accomplish this the open pasture is subdivided into smaller pastures (called grazing paddocks) and the cattle are moved from one paddock to another. Moving the cattle allows the resting paddocks to renew resources, deepen the forage root base, support and increase the vigor of the forage species, encourage the growth of native grasses, and naturally eliminate parasite and pathogen problems.
At our farm, Rain Crow Ranch, we have 22 paddocks of approximately 120 ac. each.These large paddocks are used for rotating and grazing our mamma cows with their calves and for the weanlings of 400-800 lbs.After this time the cattle to be finished are placed on finishing pasture for the last 120-180 days where the paddocks are of the best forage available, smaller and rotated more frequently.
In order for this system to work pasture rotation is part art/experience and part science.The timing of rotation has to do with the growth rate of the grass.To state it as a general rule:The faster the grass is growing the faster the rotation,the slower the grass is growing the slower the rotation.
We rotate even during times of winter and summer drought to gain the benefit of parasite and pathogen control. Yet, this time of the year (Spring) there is lots of new, tender green forage and it is a delight to see the animals anticipation of going to greener pastures. They gather at the gate ready to move to the next pasture.
Rotation on finishing pasture is much more intense than it is on the large paddocks and yet it provides the maximum nutritional gain for the animals at this stage. Often these animals are moved every 24 hours and we have done it at 12 hr. intervals. This may sound stressful but it is not. It is an easy job both for us as the farmer and for our cattle. The animals are well trained to move and one person simply lifts a single strand gate and the cattle walk through. They know they are going to be fed and come running when you call.