There are many benefits to having a grazing operation within any livestock situation. Most specifically, when livestock are grazing they are in their most natural state. That is to say that if these animals were completely left to themselves, they would graze any available pastures because that is how they were born to act. Basically, grazing is exactly what livestock want to be doing, compared to being in the barn.
I think all of this is obvious. It can be easy to see just how a herd can improve when they get out on some green grass. Their production can rise, their coats can improve, and overall the animals just seem to be happier. And after the tough winter we had this past season, I don’t blame them one bit.
But besides the boost in production, along with the overall improvement in the comfort of the animals, there are some other basic benefits we can see in a grazing operation. One reason is that a grazing system can improve wildlife habitats on a farm. By having animals out of the barn, the animals will produce most of their manure out in the paddocks. This can increase the dung beetle population which can overall help out the soil in the long run. Also, pasture based operations can increase the birds and other animals on a farm. The more wildlife that we see, the healthier the land is in general.
Also, when the animals are producing most of the manure outdoors, instead of in the barn, mastitis issues can decrease. When paddocks are moved often with new fresh clean grass, there becomes less opportunity for the animals to slop around in the dirty bacteria that may cause mastitis and other issues. Ideally, during the grazing season famers will see lower somatic cell counts and less new cases of mastitis. Also, with the manure mostly out in the paddocks there should be less flies in the barn. Flies tend to stay near the fresh manure, so if most of it is produced outside hopefully they will not be too bad in the barn, which will keep the animals comfortable.
The exercise cows get out on pasture is also beneficial. This can help avoid sore feet and hocks which can lead to better production for the animals. Also, with the extra room outside it is rare to see stepped on teats during the grazing season. This again all generally relates to animal comfort.
In the consumer driven world in which we live in, more and more people are looking to buy pasture fed meat and milk. Therefore, more and more farmers are seeing the value in pasture based operations. Everyone knows that animal comfort can go a long way in any livestock system, which most of these benefits come down to. These are just some of the many benefits we can find in a grazing operation.
Want more info on mastisis and somatic cell counts? Check out this blog post.
Curious about our free choice mineral options for grazing operations?