Mob Grazing Increases Efficiency and Profitability of Livestock Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $199,988.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Alexander Smart
South Dakota State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management, grazing - rotational, stocking rate
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter

    Proposal abstract:

    Reports in popular press about a novel grazing technique, "mob grazing", are increasing with no scientific data to support claims. The principal of mob grazing is an ultra high stocking density and frequent livestock movements. The project will investigate the impacts of mob grazing in tall, mixed and short grass prairieland ecoregions on soil quality, C, and N cycling, changes in plant species composition, and producer profitability. Mob grazed pastures will be compared to traditionally grazed pastures on 6 ranches in South Dakota from 2012-2013. One ranch from each of the aforementioned ecoregions will be selected for intensive sampling by collecting weekly forage samples to estimate harvest efficiency, plant species composition and nutrient cycling; weekly soil samples will be obtained to evaluate changes in soil quality. On each of the 6 ranches, profitability of mob grazing will be evaluated. Projected outcomes include 1) knowledge of the effects of mob grazing on harvest efficiency, changes in plant species composition, C and N cycling, soil quality and profitability of the practice for producers utilizing South Dakota grasslands, and 2) 100 producers, agency and university personnel will be informed of the outcomes of mob grazing vs traditional management systems. Project results will be presented at field days held at cooperator ranches, at informational and scientific meetings, and journal and extension publications. Adoption of this grazing technique is increasing based on anecdotal reports; it is pivotal to have scientific data to provide to producers about the impacts of the technique on sustainability of the ecosystem and profitability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The primary objective of the project is to develop scientific-based guidelines on the novel “mob grazing” management practice to producers located in three level III northern Great Plains ecoregions (Northern Glaciated Plains, Northwestern Glaciated Plains, and Northwestern Great Plains). The short-term outcomes include 1) the development of guidelines based on measured harvest efficiency, forage production, changes in plant species composition, C, water, and N cycling, soil quality and producer profitability as compared to traditional grazing practices, 2) the delivery of guidelines to university, state, and federal agencies, range and livestock specialists at workshops and scientific meetings, and 3) the delivery of mob-grazing guidelines to a producers and ranchers through a new web-page (how to grow beef), as well as those attending field days, bus tours, and local workshops. Findings will be published in peer reviewed journal and extension publications.

    Intermediate-term outcomes include 1) increased knowledge on sustainable range practices, 2) a better understanding on how traditional and mob-grazing systems impact soil and range health and, 3) increased adoption of sustainable grazing systems.

    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.