Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dream Homestead Chronicles: Rotational Pastures

Making the most of one's land is an essential ingredient in creating a well-oiled homestead that runs smoothly.

Most (not all, but most) homesteads are on the smaller scale and therefore every square inch of space is prevalent in the makeup of the homestead and the working of it. 

And even if you have much land to work with, taking care of and improving the soil of your land and increasing it's yields; is near and dear to every homesteader's heart.

Today I'd like to discuss the pros and cons of using rotating pastures for livestock.

Everything you need to know is in the name. Rotating your pastures after your livestock have grazed through it, then allowing it a rest period where it can regrow and produce more nutrient-dense plants due to the droppings of the animals that have grazed over it, is the basics of this method.

Having several fenced in areas that you wish to have grazed and then rotating your animals to a different pasture once they have grazed the current one down, is called "controlled grazing." It allows you to oversee that your animals are making the most of their pastures and eating all the different plants offered them, instead of allowing them free reign on your whole pasture, where they will only eat their favorite plants and leave everything else behind.

Grazing in sectioned pastures and keeping strict control over the pastures that are grazed has enormous benefits. The quality of the land and plants will be much improved and will create a higher yield of forage; or if you intend to plow and plant the pasture that your livestock have grazed and fertilized, the richness of the soil will greatly benefit your crops as well.

The meat, wool, eggs, and milk of animals who are raised primarily on pasture will be much healthier, whereas if they were locked in a pen and given grain, hay, etc. And the animals themselves will be healthier since they will be actively grazing their pastures instead of standing in one spot munching on hay all day long, and their diet will be much more diverse on pasture, therefore providing them with more vitamins and minerals from the varied forage. 

Unless you live in a location with a warm climate year round, you will only be able to graze like this for half of the year. However, my thought is during the colder months, sow your seed of choice into your different divided pastures and rotate them around; so even during the winter, fresh food may be offered to them.

Or fodder can be grown in a large or small scale, depending on your needs but that's another post altogether.

I practice rotational pastures with my herd of goats, quail and ducks, on a very small scale.

My Button quail in a moveable tractor that we push around the front yard as the grass gets fertilized.    

Here I've tried to document for you how quickly and efficiently my goats have cleaned up our old garden plot, and some of the backyard that they are allowed to graze. There is no need to let them graze down to the nub, unless you want them to. I believe it took them about 3-4 days to trim everything down to my satisfaction.


Simple hog panel fencing across their grazing area makes for easy movebility.

After being grazed for 3-4 days:

I have several pens set up that I can move the goats to. Once they graze one down, the next is grown up and ready for them.

Now, keep in mind goats are very different in their foraging habits than cows. They prefer leaves and weeds, to grass.  

They eat leaves, weeds and grass; in that order.

 They will be standing in foot high grass and when you come out the door, they'll scream at you like they are starving. Silly goats.

Goats will eat grass, after they've eaten everything else first. This is why they make great pasture companions for cows, horses, or geese, who eat grass but won't eat the trees or weeds unless there is nothing else available.

In my mind, a rotating pasture should have an assortment of animals all grazing it at once for optimal cleanup. 
Goats to keep the overgrown trees and weeds in check, cows (or insert any grass eating livestock here) to keep the grass grazed down, chickens and ducks to keep the bug population in check, and livestock guardians to keep an eye on things when you can't.

Everything working together to create harmony and peace is the mindset I have for my homestead. And indeed, for my life.

What more could you ask for in pasture management?

 One of my favorite things about homesteading and the general lifestyle it holds, is that everything works together to create, to build, to grow and flourish, as it was made to do. Everything, man, beast and plant, in the kind of life we were meant to live, in my opinion. 

So modern world of electronics, fast paced mindset and unrest; you can leave me in the middle of nowhere with my four-footed lawn mowers. 

I've shared my thoughts on a topic I am very excited about and hope to use in a much larger scale in the future, but until then I am using what I can of it on my own livestock.

Do you use controlled grazing with your livestock? What are your experiences? 

Love and Rich Blessings - 

~ Aspen


  1. You actually can use rotational grazing throughout the winter even in cold climates. There are some good books out there on the subject. Right now I'm going through one for beef - grass fed cattle by Julius ruechel

  2. Really? I'm intrigued, I shall have to investigate the topic more thoroughly. Thanks for informing me, dear! And we need to catch up; I've been thinking a lot about you lately.

    Love and Rich Blessings -

    ~ Aspen