Set up and manage grazing rotations

As explained in the EverGraze Nuts and Bolts of Grazing Strategies Online Exchange, planning and monitoring to changing conditions are critical steps to get the best performance from pastures and livestock. Factors to consider include allocating stock to appropriate paddocks, managing pasture  quantity and quality to meet livestock requirements, and allowing pastures sufficient rest to recover. Farmers also need to think about the current situation, as well as what pasture growth and feed on offer might look like later in the season.. At times it can be difficult to plan a rotation to balance these requirements when paddock sizes, pasture performance and feed on offer varies across the farm. The EverGraze Feed Budget and Rotation Planner provides a good starting point for determining approximately how long each paddock in a rotation will last, likely performance of the livestock, and the overall length of the rotation and hence the rest period for each paddock. The Tool can also be used to determine the total area required for each mob  and for keeping records of paddock performance. This page describes a process for setting up a grazing rotation using the EverGraze Feedbase Planning and Budgeting Tool.

Allocating mobs to paddocks or groups of paddocks

Before setting up your grazing system, you first need to decide which paddocks to include. Consider the requirements of each mob on the farm and how many hectares they require to meet FOO targets.

Start by listing the paddocks and grouping them according to their capability and proximity for ease of management. See Dividing up the farm for grazing management. An example is provided below.

DividingUpFarm_Fig 6_web
Division of pastures according to capability, Chris Mirams, Woomagama Station

DividingUpFarm_Fig 7_web
Allocation of stock classes to different areas of the farm according to livestock requirements

You then need to list the mobs and their requirements. This will help to identify which areas of the farm they are most appropriately allocated, and also where mobs could be combined to allow more paddocks for rotational grazing. If the stock carrying capacity (DSE/ha) of each area of the farm is determined, then the area required for each mob can also be roughly determined. Tables 14 (sheep) and 15 (cattle) provide DSE ratings which indicate differences in energy requirements between stock classes throughout the season.

Sales to scanning (eg. Dec – May)  Scanning to lambing (eg. May – July) Lambing (eg. July) Marking to weaning (eg. August-October) Weaning to sales (eg. October – December)
Mob DSE/hd, Minimum FOO and quality Mob DSE/hd, Minimum FOO and quality Mob DSE/hd, Minimum FOO and quality Mob DSE/hd, Minimum FOO and quality Mob DSE/hd, Minimum FOO and quality
50 kg dry ewes, 2000 head 1 DSE/hd1200 kg/ha 60% dig or 800 kg/ha 70% dig Single bearing ewes, 1000 head 1.4 DSE/hd800 kg/ha 70% digestible Single bearing ewes, 250 head x 4 mobs 1.9 DSE/hd1000 kg/ha, 75% digestible Mob A: Single bearing ewes 500 head 1.9 DSE/hd, 1000 kg/ha, 75% digestible 50 kg dry ewes, 2000 head 1 DSE/hd1200 kg/ha, 60% digestible
Twin bearing ewes, 1000 head 1.7 DSE/hd800 kg/ha 70% digestible Twin bearing ewes, 200 head x 5 mobs 2.3 DSE/hd 1500 kg/ha, 75% digestible Mob B: Single bearing ewes 500 head 1.9 DSE/hd, 1000 kg/ha, 75% digestible Light lambs, 800 head (25 kg) 0.8 DSE/hd 1600 kg/ha, 75% digestibility
Mob C: Twin bearing ewes 600 head 2.3 DSE/hd 1500 kg/ha, 75% digestible Medium lambs, 800 head (30 kg) 1 DSE/hd 1600 kg/ha, 75% digestibility
Mob D: Twin bearing ewes 400 head 2.3 DSE/hd 1500 kg/ha, 75% digestible Heavy lambs (35kg) 800 head 1.2 DSE/hd 1600 kg/ha, 75% digestibility
Total DSE 2000 3100 4200 4200 4400


Setting up rotations using the rotation planner

The Rotation Planner in the Feedbase Planning and Budgeting Tool is based on the Feed On Offer (FOO) targets set at the end of grazing for each paddock. The user fills out the area of each paddock, area, current FOO and target FOO at the end of grazing plus expected pasture growth.  Animal intake is determined by the class of animal grazed in the paddocks and a wastage factor must also be entered.

The livestock intake data is taken from either the Lifetimewool website , tables from Prograze (MLA and NSW DPI) or the Agriculture Victoria  Drought Feeding Manuals. A full list of tables can be found here. Regional pasture growth figures are available.

Deciding the order of paddocks in the rotation

  • You may choose to graze paddocks in order based on FOO on paddock assessment day – the paddock with the highest FOO grazed first, the lowest FOO grazed last.
  • You may order paddocks based around the distance paddocks are from one another – graze paddocks 1, then 2, then 3 etc because they are adjacent.
  • The order may be dictated by characteristics of paddocks and coming weather events – hot weather is predicted for next week and want stock in a paddock with shade.
  • Pasture species may influence the order of grazing – some species may need spelling at certain times of the year to ensure persistence.
  • Nutrient or chemical applications may require stock to be withheld from some paddocks for a short time, ending up further down the order of grazing.

At any time you can change the order of paddocks in the rotation by clicking on Re-calculate Pasture Budgets.

Examples – Planning a rotation using the Rotation Planner based on feed on offer

A YouTube tutorial explaining how a simple rotation can be set up using the EverGraze Feedbase Planning and Budgeting Tool is available here and a written example is provided below.

Example

It’s the 15th of May and Jane wants to plan a rotation for her mob of 900 50kg ewes pregnant (70 days). She enters these figures into the rotation planner.

Table 2. Data entry for Jane’s rotation

Name of Rotation

Jane’s rotation

 Starting date (Day and Month)

15-May

 Total area in rotation (Ha)

80

 Stock Type

Ewes

 Av. Weight (kg/Hd)

50

 Physiological State

Pregnant 70 days

MJ ME/Hd Required For Maintenance (Lifetimewool Table 1a)

9.0

 Number of animals in rotation

900

 Consumption Wastage Factor

20%

 Decay Wastage Factor

0%

Table 3. Paddocks in Jane’s rotation on the measurement date

Paddock Name Order of Paddocks in Rotation Paddock Area (Hectares) Feed on offer on measurement date (Kg DM/Ha) (Table 8) Pasture Quality (Table 12) Estimated pasture growth per day (Kg DM/Ha/Day) Target food on offer when animals taken out (Kg DM/Ha)(Table 7) Energy  intake from pasture at target food on offer when animals taken out (MJ ME/hd/day) (Table 5)

House

1

10

1500

75% dig, 10.8 MJ ME/kg – Green, 15-30% clover

20.0

1000

11.7

Scrubby

2

15

1300

70% dig, 10 MJ ME/kg – Green, grassy

15.0

1000

9.2

Olive

3

20

1100

70% dig, 10 MJ ME/kg – Green, grassy

8.0

1000

9.2

Nixes Cross

4

10

1500

60% dig, 8.2 MJ ME/kg  – Gone to seed

20.0

1000

7.3

Wombat

5

15

1100

70% dig, 10 MJ ME/kg – Green, grassy

30.0

1000

9.2

Red Gum

6

10

900

75% dig, 10.8 MJ ME/kg – Green, 15-30% clover

20.0

1000

11.7

After completing all the details, Jane sees that each paddock is going to last between three and 11 days. Jane estimates the growth rate of each paddock for the next rotation and sees that each paddock is only going to get between 17 and 30 days rest before the next grazing. Other observations are that Wombat paddock will be grazed for 11 days while Olive paddock will only last three days, and Nixes Cross, which is too low in quality to meet energy requirements of the ewes close to lambing, will be grazed for seven days.

Table 4. Results of Jane’s rotation

Paddock Name

Food on offer when animals in (Food on offer at measurement + feed grown since measurement)

Animal Consumption (Kg DM per Hd per Day)

Number of days paddock will last to reach target food on offer

Days since start of rotation (when pasture measurement was taken)

Date to move stock to next paddock based on target food on offer

Pasture growth rate between stock coming out and next rotation

Total days rest before next grazing

Food on offer at start of next rotation

House

1500

1.4

4

0

18-May

15.0

30

1456

Scrubby

1360

1.2

5

3

23-May

10.0

29

1288

Olive

1172

1.2

3

8

26-May

5.0

30

1148

Nixes Cross

1741

1.1

7

11

2-Jun

15.0

25

1368

Wombat

1686

1.3

11

18

12-Jun

25.0

17

1433

Red Gum

1507

1.4

4

28

16-Jun

15.0

20

1294

Jean wants to achieve a slightly longer rest period (40 days), and even up the days spent in each paddock. She decides to try changing the order of the paddocks so that Wombat paddock is grazed earlier. She also increases the target residual FOO in Nixes Cross to 1400 kg/ha so they are moved on more quickly, and adds Pine paddock to the rotation to allow for a bit longer rest. Jane is happy with the result and she sees that there is plenty of feed building up in the Feed on offer at the start of the next rotation column and she should be comfortable for lambing.

Table 5. Jane’s revised rotation

Paddock Name

Food on offer when animals in (Food on offer at measurement + feed grown since measurement)

Animal Consumption (Kg DM per Hd per Day)

Number of days paddock will last to reach target food on offer

Days since start of rotation (when pasture measurement was taken)

Date to move stock to next paddock based on target food on offer

Pasture growth rate between stock coming out and next rotation

Total days rest before next grazing

Food on offer at start of next rotation

House

1500

1.4

4

0

18-May

15.0

35

1518

Scrubby

1360

1.2

5

3

23-May

10.0

33

1334

Olive

1370

1.2

7

8

29-May

25.0

31

1781

Nixes Cross

1812

1.1

4

14

2-Jun

15.0

40

1997

Wombat

1258

1.2

5

18

6-Jun

5.0

41

1205

Red Gum

1386

1.3

3

22

9-Jun

15.0

41

1616

Pine

1729

1.4

11

25

19-Jun

10.0

35

1354

 

Acknowledgements:

The EverGraze Feedbase Planning and Budgeting Tool was developed by Kate Seargeant formerly of Agriculture Victoria Benalla and  Lee Beattie, Beattie Consulting Services, as part of the Future Farm Industries CRC national EverGraze project. The tool has been developed over a number of years and has been contributed to by scientists, extension staff and farmers. Key resources used in the program include the Prograze manual, Lifetimewool research, FEEDTEST averages and the  Agriculture Victoria Drought Feeding Manual.

Authors:

Kate Sargeant, Formerly Agriculture Victoria, Benalla

Fiona Baker, Agriculture Victoria, Ellinbank

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