By focusing on a small area you can easily manipulate stock density, grazing time and recovery time without putting your business at risk. This information is taken from NRM South’s and covers:
- when it’s time to remove stock
- how long your perennial grasses take to recover
- how to tell when the area is ready to be grazed again.
Step 1: Fence off a small area.
Choose your smallest paddock or fence off a corner so that with your mob size the animals are at stockyard densities. For example, if you have sheep in mobs of 500 put them into an area of less than 0.5 ha (1 acre). The closer you can get to stockyard density the less time the stock will need to be in the trial area.
Step 2: Make a record of the current health of the pasture.
It can be helpful to take photos before, during and after this treatment so you can easily monitor any improvement. Take the photo looking straight down from around chest height so that you can see the soil surface. If you want to collect more evidence you can use the monitoring form in Appendix 1 of the Planned Grazing Guide to complement your photos.
Step 3: Add stock.
You might need to leave the animals there for as little as four hours, so keep a close eye on your trial area.
Step 4: Remove stock.
It’s important to take stock out at the right time. Figure 2 shows what you’ll see when it’s time to take stock out – when the animals have trampled most of the area but the soil surface is still 100% covered either by plants or litter.
Step 5: Record the date.
How long and how many stock were in the trial area.
Step 6: Leave the area to recover.
It typically takes between 6 and 12 months in temperate regions such as southern Tasmania for the best perennial grasses to recover. Grasses are considered to be recovered when they contain fresh litter (dead leaves still attached to plants) and there is no evidence of previous grazing such as chewed tips.
Step 7: Repeat the process.
By doing this you should continuously improve biodiversity of your pasture and the land function.
Recovery time varies with season and from year to year, so you need to keep monitoring and make sure you do not put animals into an area to graze before it is ready, or leave them so long that they create bare ground, otherwise you won’t produce the healthy, diverse landscape you need for your farm.
It is extremely useful to take photographs of your trial area regularly during the recovery period, for example at 60, 90, 120 and 150 days after removing stock, to help refine your understanding of recovery time. Remember to keep records of stock movements and take photos to see how the length of the recovery time affects your pasture.
That’s basically all there is to a planned grazing trial. The animals do all the work. Over time your land, pastures and soil should improve.