Implementing Rotational Grazing Practices on Livestock Operations in Maryland

Project Overview

LNE20-397
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $78,076.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Dr. Amanda Grev
University of Maryland

Commodities

  • Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine, equine, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy, meat

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, grazing management, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, rangeland/pasture management, stocking rate, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification:

    Continuous grazing is typically defined as a one-pasture system in which livestock have unrestricted access to the entire pasture area throughout the grazing season.  Although it is a simple system to implement and manage, it often results in uneven grazing patterns where parts of the field are under or overgrazed.  This in turn leads to poorer forage quality, a loss of ground cover in overgrazed areas, the emergence of weeds and undesirable plants, and a decrease in stand production and longevity.  In comparison, rotational grazing practices are known to improve forage production and yield potential, increase forage quality and the persistence of desirable species, and decrease weed and erosion problems.  As a result, rotational grazing systems can offer economic and environmental benefits in the form of increased carrying capacity, greater animal production per acre, prolonged grazing days, a reduction in hay feeding, faster recovery, and decreased nutrient runoff.  However, many Maryland livestock producers have not adopted these best management practices and continue to utilize continuous grazing systems.  Reasons for the lack of implementation may include a lack of knowledge regarding the benefits of rotational grazing, a resistance to change, or a misunderstanding regarding the time and resources needed to implement rotational grazing.

    Solution and Approach:

    We propose that educational programming on the benefits and strategies behind rotational grazing together with assistance in designing a personalized, farm-specific rotational grazing system will help increase adaptation of these best management practices.  To accomplish this, a series of field days and grazing schools will be hosted across the state of Maryland.  These educational events will cover the basics of rotational grazing and will be hosted at demonstration sites where producers can see successful implementation of the grazing practices described.  In addition to these educational programs, producers who commit to implementing rotational grazing practices will also be enrolled in an individualized on-farm grazing program.  This program will entail in-person farm visits across multiple years, at which experts will assist with collecting and analyzing soil and pasture samples, completing a detailed pasture assessment, addressing questions and concerns, and designing a personalized grazing plan.

    Milestones and Performance Target:

    Attendance at field days and grazing schools will be measured and is expected to exceed 600 participants across the 3-year timespan.  Participants will be asked to fill out program evaluations to indicate learning gains and post-program outcomes.  A minimum of 20 livestock farms will be enrolled in the individualized grazing program and will commit to increasing the number of acres utilized as rotationally grazed pasture throughout the state of Maryland.  In addition to the evaluations, pasture assessments completed at initial and follow-up farm visits will allow for a comparison of on-farm measurements across years.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    As a result of grazing education and on-farm guidance, 20 livestock farms will implement rotational grazing on at least 30 acres, resulting in 600 acres of rotationally grazed pasture and an improvement in net farm income due to increased forage productivity, quality, and carrying capacity and improved soil fertility.

    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.