Total grazing is beneficial for the land
There is a big difference between selective grazing where the animal is allowed to graze the species and parts of species that it prefers and Total grazing where the animal is not allowed that luxury and has to consume most everything on offer.
To have the cattle thrive under this management the grazing periods need to be short, so the rumen has a constant quality of feed coming into this wonderful batch system that is the rumen. Around every two hours is the optimum but this will depend on quality of forage on offer.
This takes some experience to do successfully so the cattle are getting enough breaks and area to do well (full gut at the end of the day, good looking manure, pre grazing and post grazing pasture mass).
The benefits to the environment are:
- Plants have the old growth removed, which allows the sunlight to reach the growing points to where better and more tillers are produced.
- The animal density needs to be higher to make the animals to achieve total grazing, this also allows the soil crust to be broken by the hooves of the cows which is necessary to allow for a good gas interchange in the soil.
- Regrowth is enhanced by the animal impact and cow’s saliva, which is now closer to the ground and thus closer to the growing points where it can be of more effect. Saliva from the cow gives a boost in plant growth vs. mechanical cutting.
- Better plant density is a result of this type of grazing if properly done. Since animals are more concentrated and more plant material is consumed this leads to a longer recovery period, which allow desirable species seedlings time to establish and reproduce. Some desirable species need to be deferred for a whole growing season to establish and this fits well with the need to have a non-growing season reserve.
On the contrary, selective grazing carries the following effects:
- Cows leave the undesirable species un-grazed or incompletely grazed, which allows them to set seed and reproduce
- Since the cattle do not graze it all this means they need more area per day. The consequence of this accessing more area per day is that the stocking rate is lowered or the herd has to return sooner to that same paddock, this means there will not be enough time for the desirable species to establish as cows will return and re-graze them before they have established, grown strong roos and set seed.
- The ratio of leaf to stem ratio will be lower as the cows will selectively consume the leaf, higher digestibility, and reject the stems which have much lower digestibility and do not do create energy through photosynthesis but continue the respiration process, which reduces the energy of the plant.
We need more leaf and less stem not more stem and less leaf, a high proportion of leaf in relation to stem is needed for good animal performance and to capture sunlight so the roots give off exudates to feed the microorganisms in the soil which release nutrients in the soil and captured from the air.
The deferred area allocated for the non-growing reserve is where the roots grow bigger and the individual plants get stronger, also where the new seedlings of desirable species can establish and reproduce.
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