Agriculture and Environment: Beef

Better Management Practices: Avoid Overgrazing

There are several ways to control grazing so as to mitigate environmental impacts.

Controlled grazing or management-intensive grazing (MIG, also known as rotational grazing) can be adopted to check unlimited access of animals to pastures and also to manage the grazing land effectively.

Sustainable pasture management practices
Sustainable pasture management practices, which include a balance of matching forage and livestock resources, resource management, proper breed selection, and looking for alternative feeds, can all help to reduce the deleterious effects of overgrazing.

Properly managed grazing can have some benefits. Cattle manure fertilisers pastures. In addition, grazing can encourage re-growth and prevent the spread of noxious weeds. In South Africa ranchers have found that native grasses germinate best in corridors where cattle have trampled the most.

Ranchers have found that cattle hooves break up ground that left alone would be too hard for seeds to penetrate and find a place to germinate. Ranchers using this system have been able to double the carrying capacity of their pastures.

Also they have a higher percentage of perennial grasses (which produce more biomass) as ground cover than land ranched conventionally (Spark 194).

Managed grazing for healthy vegetation
Properly managed grazing maintains healthy vegetation, which helps to filter pollutants from runoff, reduce runoff velocity, and control soil erosion. Management practices that help to maintain vegetative cover involve distributing cattle so that they do not overgraze portions of pasture and allowing for recovery of the vegetation following a grazing period.

Using prescribed or rotational grazing systems can minimise the impact of grazing. Adjusting the stocking rate seasonally, particularly in sensitive watershed areas, can also reduce the impacts.


Extracts from "World Agriculture & Environment" by Jason Clay - buy the book online from Island Press

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