Rotational Grazing: Who? Where? Why?

rotational grazing

At the Kerr Center, we’ve been preaching – and practicing – rotational grazing for so long that it’s easy to think it’s what everyone’s doing.

Of course, that’s not really the case, and a recent publication sheds some interesting light on where in the country, and on what kinds of operations, the practice is more widespread.

“Rotational Grazing Adoption by Cow-Calf Operations,” a new report by USDA’s Economic Research Service, takes a closer look at just how widespread rotational grazing really is.

The report goes deeper, looking not only at the prevalence of rotational grazing, but also at the intensity of rotation, as measured by things like the number of paddocks and the amount of time spent moving cattle each week.

Despite the buzz around rotational grazing in the early 2000s, the percentage of cattle operations using the practice dropped from 40% in 2007 to 30% in 2017, according to the USDA Census of Agriculture.

The new report, using data from the Agricultural Resource Management (ARM) survey from 2018, looking only at cow-calf operations in the 23 largest cattle-producing states, found that 40 percent of operations use rotational grazing. Of those, 40 percent – that is, 16 percent of the total – use intensive rotational grazing (defined as having an average grazing period of 14 days or fewer per paddock).

The Southern Plains region, including Oklahoma and Texas, had the lowest rate of rotational grazing, at 25%, as well as the lowest share of intensive rotational grazing. The highest adoption rate of rotational grazing, 49%, was in the tier of states running north from Oklahoma to Canada, along with Missouri and Arkansas.

The report emphasizes the ecological and economic benefits of rotational grazing, as well as the varying perceptions of these that can influence ranchers’ choices about whether – and to what degree of intensity – to implement rotational grazing management practices.

Read the report

Tag(s): rotational grazing

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