Rotational Grazing Techniques

Why do Rotational Grazing?

If you’re just starting, you may not know exactly why you should rotational graze your animals. But there are many benefits that can be unlocked when you move your animals around consistently.

Lower Your Load

Worms live in your animals’ stomachs, and if your animals have them, they come out in the poop, back onto the grass. And if your animals eat the grass, they get the worms, who absolutely love having a safe place to breed and grow. In this way, the worms can easily spread from animal to animal. But if you move your animals  daily, or at least give them fresh grass, they won’t be as likely to eat the contaminated grass and get worms. This is an especially important benefit to ruminants.

Save on Food

Sheep, cows, and goats were make to eat grass and leaves. And, they love the fresh growth of a juicy pasture. Chickens might need a little extra grain, but they can also forage for leaves and bugs, and they love kitchen scraps! So why waste money on unneeded feed when you could feed your animals mostly grass? True, it does take a little extra labor and devotion, but it’s worth it for your animals’ health, and the cost.

You Don’t Have Time To Mow

If you move your animals around, they will eat the grass down and then you don’t have to mow it. You can also plan ahead and allot a few days worth of grass not to mow, so they’ll have something to eat after you mow the rest of your yard. (Hint: you don’t have to mow that part!) Depending on how big your yard is and how many animals you have, you may still have to mow parts of your yard to keep it from getting out of hand, but it definitely cuts down on how much you have to do.

Lie Down in Green Pasture

OK, the fertilizer is poop, but it works great. Wherever the animals go gets the love, so moving them around is best. Also, eating the grass helps stir up the locked-up seed bed, introducing new plants into your pasture ecosystem. You can restore a ruined pasture this way, and make it a beautiful green again.

The chickens scratching in some beautiful green pasture that has been created by rotational grazing.


Hacks and How-To’s

OK, now that you know why, lets dig into how. Because there is no guarantee it will be easy. But there are ways to minimize the hassle of rotational grazing.

Fold Your Fence

We use this hack every day in summer with our sheep, and we love it. Depending on how many animals you have, how much they eat, and which fences you use, you might not be able to do this, but it works great for a smaller flock. Basically, you set up a fence that has three of four days worth of grass inside, and then collapse the corners into the middle. The next day, you can expand it out again and easily supply your animals with fresh, un-pooped-on grass.

Baby sheep in a folded fence
The left side of this fence looks like a zigzag– that’s the folded fence technique. We’ll fold those triangles out later for an easy morning of chores.

Plan Ahead

On a day when you’re not as busy, set up and fold some extra fences to have available when the animals run out of their current pasture. That way, you can just move them in quick on the days when you are in a hurry. After all, moving and setting up fences is the hardest part.

Go Portable

Conventional animal housing is really hard to move. It was not made for rotational grazing. So if at all possible, upgrade to lightweight housing, or housing with wheels so you can actually move it with your animals. For chickens, we recommend the ChickShaw, which is a coop-on-wheels that fits forty chickens, and conveniently deposits the droppings on the ground. For sheep, we just built a shed out of 2×4’s, which is sort of heavy, but doable.

Practice Makes Perfect

Last but not least, try to get in a routine that makes the most of the time you have. We carry out all the food we all need at once so we don’t have to make multiple trips back to the garage. We set up fences in advance and use the folded fence method. And of course, the kids help, so that makes things a lot faster and more fun.

Are you ready? You can do it! It just takes a bit of getting used to.

Future Plans for Resiliency

We are making a list of resiliency ideas for our homestead.  Many of these require significant expense, so this is a rather long term list.

    1. Fences – we currently have no perimeter fence and would be able to run some cattle if we did. And the dog would have a little more freedom.
    2. Tractor – with loader, forks, PTO mowers, bush hog, etc. This would allow us to mow our own pastures instead of paying someone else to do it.
    3. Garage/Barn – we are a two mower family, we’ll soon be a multiple car family and we’re considering a tractor with PTO add-ons. We’re going to need somewhere to store all that!
    4. A well – we are currently on municipal water supply and would like to be able to have water with less dependence. (We just had an incident where the water was turned off for a day of repairs. That was an interesting experience.) We already use creek water for our animals, but we can’t really drink that. 😉
    5. Root Cellar – we would love to be able to have a cool, dark root cellar for potatoes and preserved eggs. It will also free up some space in our refrigerator, because right now, we have like 15 dozen eggs waiting to be used up. We have a great method for preserving them without refrigeration, but we’d like to have a cooler space before we risk all our eggs on it. (We’re doing two five gallon buckets this year.) This would also allow us to grow more sweet potatoes and squash because they would keep longer in a root cellar.
    6. Solar panels and batteries – for reducing dependence on the electric grid. If the power ever went out for a long period of time, we could still run the fridge and freezers off of a few solar panels.
    7. Solar hot water heater – there are some DIY options available here that are interesting. And they work really well!

Fear or Wisdom?

The biggest question I have with all these resiliency ideas:

Am I looking for security and safety in this world or is this wise planning and discernment of the times from the Holy Spirit?

We want to rely on God to provide for us, and not be self-sustaining. We don’t want to be so resilient that we forget who sustains us. But we also want to be able to show that God’s way is better, and share hope with the world when things get tough. Hopefully, the Lord will give us some clarity on if, when, and what order in the days to come.