Mulloon Creek Natural Farms, following nature

Grazing Management

What is it?

Grazing management at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms refers to the management of the grazing process to optimise the productivity and resilience of the pasture and the health, profitability and risk exposure of the grazing enterprise. This means that the requirements of the plants and soils in the pasture system are considered along with the requirements of the animals.

Pastures are ecosystems that have a mixture of plants, some palatable to and beneficial for our animals, some not. The grazing of animals can be managed to rejuvenate degraded pasture, control weeds, reduce re-sowing and reduce fertiliser costs by targeting undesirable species at stages in their lifecycles when they are more sensitive to competition from other plants or to grazing. In this way, grazing can be used to shift composition and density of a pasture towards a desirable direction.

There are many different names for grazing practices and many different ways of interpreting them. In the main, the development of grazing management practices at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms are based on the approach to grazing developed by Allan Savory in Southern Africa called Holistic Management, and incorporates the ideas and observations of Andre Voison.

There is still a lot to be learned about the management of grazing and advantages to be gained, but some fundamental principles have emerged that are very helpful. These principles are:
  • Plants (in particular perennial plants) need to store reserves of energy for survival, development of buds and future growth. If plants are grazed when growing from reserves they can be weakened and killed through depletion of reserve resources.
  • The greater the green leaf area of the plant the greater the growth of the pasture until the pasture shades the ground and mature and dying leaves accumulate at which point growth slows.
  • Some pasture plants are winter active and are dormant in summer, some are summer active and are dormant in winter.
  • Most plants have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi and a disruption of this relationship (through fertiliser or fungicide) can reduce plant access to nutrient and water.
  • The same tactics of grazing management do not need to apply to all paddocks at all times of the year. Most properties have a diversity of soil and pasture plant types and qualities as well as diverse stock requirements. Grazing management needs to be flexible and intelligent to optimise pasture performance across the property and across the year.

Implementation and research

Mulloon Creek Natural Farms (MCNF) practice a well-managed rotational grazing system.. Rotational grazing is a form of managed grazing in that the pastures receive extensive rest between grazings.

In a conventional, continuous grazing system the animals typically spend long enough in the paddock to be able to re-graze desirable plants that are growing from root reserves which may weaken them and make them vulnerable to poor weather conditions, or slow to recover.

References

  • Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision-Making, Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield
  • Holistic Management Handbook: Healthy Land, Healthy Profits, Jody Butterfield, Sam Bingham and Allan Savory

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