With the arrival of the summer months the idea of maximizing forage potential is on the minds of livestock producers. Utilizing a Management Intensive Grazing system (or MIG) is the most effective way to use pasture. Often called “rotational grazing” the system is designed to divide existing pastures into smaller paddocks and frequently rotate the animals between them. This method allows forage in each paddock enough time to re-grow before it’s grazed again.
Jay Chism, agronomy specialist for the University of Missouri Extension Service emphasized that, “Traditional open grazing only utilizes about 30 percent of the available forage.  MIG utilizes up to 70 percent of the forage produced.  Better utilization equals more efficient use of inputs resulting in more profit.”

Five considerations for beginning a MIG program:
    1.    Set reasonable and achievable goals for the program. (i.e. “I want to add 10 cows to my herd while using the same amount of pasture.")    2.    How can existing fields easily divide into smaller paddocks?     3.    What fencing system will be used?     4.    What water sources will be implemented in new paddocks?    5.    How much time will the new rotating schedule require?
When these questions are considered and a clear plan is established a producer is ready to begin the program. It can be implemented at any point during the grazing seasons, but once cattle have eaten (or trampled) half of the height of the grass, it’s time to rotate. The time will be different for each producer based on the number of livestock and size of the paddock as well as type of forage. Chism said, “Usually four paddocks is the minimum number to begin with, but eight is even better.”
Hot wire fencing is sufficient to divide the paddocks. Water, of course, is imperative and understanding the field and forage present is important. A producer should know the type of forage, its growing potential and the time to stop grazing and rotate to a different pasture.
Chism noted that, “The key word is management.” In this program, managing rotation between fields and keeping good records of which fields have been grazed is essential for a successful program.
However, the benefits of this extra management can far outweigh the time and resource expenses. Chism said, “The system can increase forage production, reduce fertilizer cost, extend the growing season, reduce the need to bale hay, improve forage quality and reduce soil erosion.” With the increase in forage production, more livestock can be added to the existing herd as well.
The best way to begin a Management Intensive Grazing system is to get in touch with your county extension agronomy specialist. Each season many counties will have grazing schools that introduce the system and, “The Soil and Water Conservation District in your area is a great place to learn about the system,” Chism added. Also, see our calendar on page 26 for grazing seminars being held near you.


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