Broccoli and Candy - Forage Quality
We know the detriments to pastures when overgrazed but what kind of diet does a set stock pasture provide for your livestock?
When livestock are rotationally grazed, they enter a new paddock of high-quality forage after a certain amount of time. This means that they have a consistent diet of the highest possible quality of forage frequently. Conversely, set stock pastures never improve to a higher quality than the first day livestock enter. The quality will only decline leading to low protein and basically no fiber in the overgrazed forage. With this quality decline comes production decline which means less forage for livestock to consume. This can be especially detrimental to dairy cattle as rumen fill is vital to high milk production.
Speaking of the rumen, the lack of consistency that comes with lack of rotation really does a number on a cow’s gut health. After grazing where the quality has dwindled to low protein and fiber, then being switched to a higher protein and higher fiber area, the rumen can take a real shock. This is hard on the digestive system compared to the consistency of rotating to similar forage daily or multiple times a day.
Livestock are naturally selective in what they graze. In a set stock situation cattle have a space that is too large to sway them from being selective. This leads to them eating the “good stuff” first (candy) and leaving behind the plants that are not as fresh and lush (broccoli). This only leads to the “broccoli” forages to getting more mature, heading out, and, if those mature seeds are eaten by the cattle, they are reseeding the exact species they do not prefer! Not to mention that these stiff seed heads, if left unclipped or eaten, can cause other problems such as pink eye or mouth ulcers when cattle try to get down to new growth.
All of this to say, lack of rotation can be very hard on livestock’s diet and digestive system. Consistency is key.