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Mob grazing

Mob grazing with cattle is a strategy to improve forage species and quality

Mob grazing is defined as grazing a large number of animals on a small area for a short period of time. The result is a uniform consumption of forage, and distribution of manure and urine. Uneaten forage is trampled into the soil, increasing the organic matter.

Jim Russell is an animal science professor at Iowa State University who led research on this grazing strategy. He says it’s basically a more intensive approach to rotational grazing, but there’s a lot of variation in how it’s being applied.

"We’ve utilized stocking densities of close to a half-million-pounds-per-acre and moved the cows four-times-a-day," says Russell. "But then we’ve compared it to a stocking density that would be four-times less than that, so about 120,000 pounds of beef per-acre and moved the cows once a day. We didn’t see any difference in the effects on the pastures."

From a practical side, Russell says it appears you can get by with lower stocking densities. However, he doesn’t want you to confuse this with stocking “rate”.

"I think that that’s one thing that has caught people’s attention with mob grazing, is the thought that they are actually increasing their stocking rate, and actually may have to decrease the total stocking rate of their pastures," says Russell.  "Because, when you graze down the forage as close as what you do in a mob grazing situation, it actually has relatively slow re-growth."

Russell notes that mob grazing takes a longer rest period to re-establish the forage than a less-intensive rotational grazing system. But, he says if you have CRP acres, rented land, or land meant for recreational purposes, mob grazing may be a beneficial practice.

Is mob grazing right for your farm? Here's what Penn State University learned from a study on dairies in the Northeast

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