Intensive Rotational Grazing for Sheep

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1993: $1,868.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1994
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $11,400.00
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:


  • Agronomic: corn, rye, sorghum (milo), soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: sheep


  • Animal Production: pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, workshop


    Keeping a close watch on pasture conditions and the amount of forage available, John and Linda Oswalt rotated a large herd of ewes and lambs in an out of an 18 acre paddock near their farmstead. Detailed records were kept throughout the 1992 growing season an animal numbers and the days they grazed in order to estimate the amount of forage harvested.

    The Oswalts estimate that the sheep harvested almost 88 tons of feed from the 18 acre pasture during 95 days of grazing from April to the end of October. This equals a per acre forage yield of 4.88 tons. Based on a conservative feed value of $80/ton, the pasture produced a gross income of $390/40/acre. If maintenance and labor costs are subtracted from this amount, net income per acre totaled $347.84.

    When the net income derived from 18 acres of rotational pasture ($6261.12) is compared with the net return from 18 acres of field corn ($1359.00), the rotational pasture produced 4 ½ times more income for the Oswalts.

    Intensive rotational grazing with a large ewe/lamb herd on the Oswalt Farm, Vicksburg, Michigan.

    Eighteen acre pasture. Seeded in 1988 with a orchard grass and rye pasture mix.

    Grazing periods and estimates of the amount of feed harvested by grazing sheep.

    April 23- May 12
    810 lambs and ewes grazed 12 days = 17.60 tons feed
    June 14- June 30
    810 lambs and ewes grazed 16 days = 25.28 tons feed
    July 13-July 30
    120 lambs grazed 17 days = 2.71 tons feed
    July 30-August 10
    664 lambs and ewes grazed 10 days = 15.73 tons feed
    August 30- September 14
    340 lambs and ewes grazed 15 days = 12.74 tons feed
    September 14- September 22
    250 lambs and ewes grazed 7 days = 4.99 tons feed
    October 1- October 12
    90 lambs and ewes grazed 12 days = 3.08 tons feed
    October 24- October 30
    330 lambs and ewes grazed 6 days = 5.64 tons feed

    Total estimated tons feed harvested by animals during 95 days of grazing = 87.77 tons feed.

    Estimated average yield per acre = 4.88 tons feed

    Annual cost per acre for pasture maintenance
    100 units of nitrogen $20.00
    Fencing $11.00
    1 mowing (for weed control) $6.00
    Labor (moving fence and animals) $5.56
    Total annual cost/acre $42.56

    Annual income per acre from pasture
    Gross income with an average yield of 4.88 tons per acre of forage and minus annual maintenance costs of 42.56/acre.

    Gross income, Net after maintenance cost
    $70/ton = $341.60, $299.04
    $80/ton = $390.40, $347.84
    $90/ton = $439.20, $396.64

    Comparison of forage and corn production
    Gross income/acre for #2 corn (125bu/acre x $2/bu) $250.00
    Per acre produced cost for #2 corn (inputs and labor) -$174.50
    Net income per acre $75.50

    Net return on 18 acres of pasture at $80/ton = $6261.12
    Net return on 18 acres of #2 corn at $2.00/bu = $1359.00

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.