Multi-Species Grazing

— Written By

Excerpt from the research paper “The Advantages and Challenges of Multi-Species Grazing” by Margaret B. Ross

Looking for a better way to manage parasites on your farm? Have you ever considered multi-species grazing? Below you will find an except from a research paper I wrote on the topic. But, first, what is multi-species grazing? Multi-species grazing is just that – allowing more than one species (for example beef cattle with goats or sheep) to graze together. There are many benefits to this type of grazing. One main advantage is reduced parasite loads. For example, cattle and goats (if grazed together) will both eat parasites that affect the other species. This helps reduce parasite loads in pasture because some of the parasites that affect cattle do not affect goats and vice versa. On the other hand, there are disadvantages, or challenges, when grazing multiple species together. One major challenge is fencing. Usually fencing is somewhat put up based on which species will be in the pasture. When you put more than one species together, you must consider if your fencing is adequate (do you have enough strands? is it hot enough if it’s an electric fence? is it sturdy enough?) Read on to learn more about multi-species grazing.

Multi-species grazing has numerous benefits environmentally and economically. By incorporating multi-species grazing into your pasture management routine, you can achieve a better pasture management routine. Although there are many advantages, there are challenges such as fencing and providing trace minerals. In this paper, we will discuss both the many advantages as well as disadvantages to this type of intensive grazing management. Multi-species grazing has many benefits including parasite control, increased carrying capacity of land, and increased manure distribution in pastures.

One point to consider when discussing reducing parasite loads is the height of the plant the animal will be grazing. Once parasite eggs are deposited in the manure, larvae travel only a short distance up the grass blade. Animals that graze well above ground level are not ingesting these parasite larvae; however, animals that do graze lower to the ground will be ingesting a much greater amount of these larvae. This is why it is so important to graze the correct species together as well as provide a sufficient amount of browse for goats and grass for cattle.

In summary, it has been noted time and time again that there are many benefits to multi-species grazing. Individual animal performance will increase as well as the carrying capacity of the land. Furthermore, the parasite load of the species grazing will decrease, making for a healthier herd. This is not to say there are not challenges with multi-species grazing. Those challenges include increased fencing and predator control, as well as a common lack of husbandry knowledge. Many of these challenges can be overcome to ensure you are utilizing your pastures and your livestock efficiently. By preparing, planning, and doing your research, you can successfully multi-species graze your land.

Written By

Photo of Margaret RossMargaret RossArea Specialized Agent, Agriculture - Poultry Serves 33 CountiesBased out of Jones County(252) 670-8254 margaret_ross@ncsu.eduJones County, North Carolina
Posted on Dec 17, 2013
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