Management-intensive Grazing – A Book Review

In Book Reviews, Management, Pasture & Livestock, Stockman Grass Farmer by James1 Comment

Anyone who is in the grazing game has likely come across the term “Management Intensive Grazing.” The term was coined by Jim Gerrish who spent nearly thirty years working at the University of Missouri Forage Systems Research Center along with operating his own farm and ranch. What he learned over his multi-decade research he has incorporated into his book. As noted on the back cover of the book readers will get a comprehensive overview of Management intensive grazing which includes: * How to manage the water cycle * Making pasture fertility pay * How to grow quality pasture * Working with legumes * The power of stock density * How to match forage supply and animal demand * Managing pastures and animals * How to judge maximum intake of forage * How to extend the grazing system * How to stockpile forage for low-cost wintering * Pasture weaning for health and weight gain * Dealing with pests and parasites * Coping with and minimizing pasture bloat * Planning and using permanent and perimeter fencing * When and how to use portable fencing * Water requirements for a MiG system * Basic guidelines for designing a MiG system * Using pasture record, and more. Jim Gerrish’s Management-intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming has everything a pasture based farmer needs to know when it comes to getting started and beyond.

What’s in the book?

This book has an unconventional layout. It consists of eleven sections with 56 sub-sections. The result is basically 56 chapters, each chapter averaging 2-4 pages. The thing I like most is at the end of each chapter there are two sections, “The Basics” which recaps important points, and “Think About your Farm or Ranch” which presents key questions you should be asking about your own farm/ranch when considering the information presented in the chapter. I can’t list all the chapters here, it would be too many, but I’ll list the primary eleven sections. There is also a Grazier’s Glossary at the end of the book with lots of useful grazing terminology.

1. Introduction to Management-intensive Grazing
2. From the Ground Up – Soils
3. Growing Quality Pasture
4. Matching Forage and Animals
5. Managing Pasture and Animals
6. Extending the Grazing Season
7. Animal Care
8. Fencing
9. Water Basics
10. Designing Your Grazing System
11. Putting It All Together

Highlights

It’s always best to start with definitions, so let’s start there. What is “Management-intensive Grazing?” It’s a goal driven approach to grassland management and utilization. The first goal is one of lifestyle, the second financial, the third consideration is environmental, and the final consideration is choosing a production system to fit your goals. In essence it’s a holistic approach to grazing very much like Alan Savory’s book. Listed below are just a few of the many key points Jim emphasis throughout the book.

  • Lime is very important when it comes to revitalising damaged soils.
  • Animals grazing on pasture return over 90% of the nutrients they consume back to pasture via their urine and feces.
  • Taking pasture walks and determining where your nutrient dense spots are in your pastures can better help you plan your grazing.
  • In immature plants as much as 90% of the cellulose may be digested while in fully mature grass stems as little as 25% may be digested.
  • Managing plant maturity to minimize lignin accumulation is one of the fundamental strategies to grazing management.
  • As legume roots die they release nitrogen into the soil that can be taken back up by grasses making for a very effective symbiotic relationship.
  • Think of stocking rate in Seasonal terms, but think of stock density in immediate terms.
  • Stocking rate is the number of animals or animal liveweight per unit area for an extended period of time.
  • Stocking density is the number of animals or animal liveweight assigned per acre on a daily basis.
  • Keep accurate records of forage and animal performance is paramount for success.
  • Try to achieve the “eyes and nostril rule” to maximize grazing.
  • To get cows to graze through snow don’t feed them any hay. Snow grazing is a learned habit.
  • Don’t waste your time seeding improved pasture species until you have brought the soil back to life.
  • The first things to think about on a new piece of land are fencing and water.

Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer

When people think of grazing management it’s hard not to think of Jim Gerrish – after all he coined the phrase “Management-intensive Grazing.” But not only did he coin a phrase, he put in decades of research to build his credibility as one of the leaders in grazing education. In addition to research and his own farming and ranching Jim has become over the years a regular contributor to “The Stockman Grass Farmer” publication – the premier monthly grazing magazine in the United States. Anyone who is interested in grazing or wants to learn more about it would do themselves a big favor by reading Jim’s first book – this one. It is the quintessential introduction to planned grazing. It’s accessible to novices and experts alike. My next book review will cover Jim’s second book which solely focuses on year round grazing with no hay. Until then check out Jim’s first book.

Here is Jim doing a presentation on Pasture Improvement