The Benefits of Grazing

Grazing operations benefit the animals, the farm, and the environment.

Good grazing management benefits the environment in a multitude of ways:
  • capturing more rainfall on the pasture so that less runs off to nearby streams;
  • helping to cycle nutrients and build healthy soil through vigorous vegetation growth;
  • reducing the amount of fertilizer needed to grow feed on acres converted to grazing;
  • and distributing manure across a wider area, instead of concentrating it near waterways and feedlots.

A May 2011 study by USDA Agricultural Research Service comparing grazing operations to conventional confinement dairies concluded that grazing operations

  • reduced sediment erosion by 87 percent,
  • reduced phosphorus runoff by 13 pounds per acre,
  • increased carbon sequestration levels,
  • and lowered ammonia emissions by 30 percent.

Equally important, good grazing management helps a farm be more productive.

"Improved pasture management offers the single greatest opportunity to lower production costs, assuming that animal genetics, health, marketing procedures, and other areas of management have been addressed. A primary goal of livestock producers should be to utilize grazed forage for as many months of the year as possible . . ." (White, Harlan, Controlled Grazing of Virginia's Pastures, March 2009).

Productive farms are more likely to remain operational, keeping more land in agricultural use rather than other, more environmentally disadvantageous uses.

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