Cattle grazing temporarily in a streamside pasture. Photo Karl Hakanson.
Fence and watering system plan diagram showing where livestock watering stations and interior and perimeter fence will be installed for a rotational grazing system. Plan courtesy of Wayne Monsen, MDA.
Rotationally grazed pasture subdivided into narrow paddocks. Photo courtesy Karl Hakanson.
Lightweight portable fence used in a rotational grazing system to adjust paddock boundaries as needed, based on grass growth and livestock forage needs. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Rotational Grazing, also called prescribed or managed grazing, is a management-intensive system of raising livestock on subdivided pastures called paddocks. Livestock are regularly rotated to fresh paddocks at the right time to prevent overgrazing and optimize grass growth.
Rotational grazing doubles as a system of perennial grassland management, providing exceptional erosion and runoff control on uplands as well as stream corridors. It offers a productive alternative for marginal, erosion-prone or flood-prone cropland and other environmentally sensitive land, including overgrazed pastures.
Rotational grazing also provides built-in manure management. Manure on healthy, well-managed grassland decomposes into the soil rather than running off. Rotating livestock from paddock to paddock allows time for manure to be incorporated into the soil. The manure helps maintain soil fertility for new grass growth, eliminating the need to store, process, haul or spread manure as a nutrient.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has a Rotational Grazing webpage that describes other practical and environmental benefits of rotational grazing. The MDA webpage also discusses the importance of having a rotational grazing plan and describes key components. Examples include calculating the appropriate number, size and layout of paddocks relative to livestock numbers and forage needs, and determining appropriate locations for livestock watering stations and walkways.
Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
University of Minnesota Extension
University of Wisconsin Extension
See also resources for Pasture/Hay Planting, Fencing, Livestock Watering Facilities and Stream Crossings.
See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District