Rotational Grazing: Green Grass, Healthy Cattle, Clean Streams

Meet Wayne Snapp. He and his wife have a 430-acre cattle farm in Middletown, Virginia. Find out how they've expanded rotational grazing to benefit the herd, the soil, and the water. Virginia leaders can support local farms and clean water by fully funding the agricultural cost-share program.

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[Wayne Snapp, Cattle Farmer, Middletown, Virginia] If we can do our small part as cattle producers and try to do the best humane way to grow our cattle and to take care of the land, I think it pays dividends down the road.

My name is Wayne Snapp. My wife and I have cattle here on this farm. We basically have about 430 acres here, open ground, and there's approximately 215 cow-calf pairs here. Basically, we've always implemented rotational grazing, but we're doing it a whole lot more intensive now on this farm in particular.

[Text overlay] Rotational Grazing. Big fields are fenced into smaller pastures.

[Wayne Snapp] We've taken 40 and 50 acres and carved them down to ten and twelve acre paddocks. We rotate them through and they're in a certain field for, say, three days. They may not be back in that field for 40, 45 days, so that gives that grass tremendous rest.

[Text overlay] Livestock move to a new pasture every few days.

[Matt Kowalski, Chesapeake Bay Foundation] Rotational grazing is also a wonderful way to create more soil health. When a plant is growing, it has an opportunity to rest. The grass up top grows and we all get to see that. We're also getting deeper roots.

[Text overlay] Grass in fields not being grazed grows thick leaves and deep roots. Healthier plants and soil better absorb water. Less runoff washes into streams during rainstorms.

When you've got healthy soils and you've got deep root systems, when you get that rain, water can be stored in the soil. So you want to capture every little drop of rain that you can get.

[Wayne Snapp] If we can hold every drop of water that comes, we don't see the detriment of a drought the way some of our neighbors or friends may see because we're holding it there and that root system and that grass is holding all that moisture there.

We've saved tremendously on the amount of feed we're having to put out there. So not only are the cattle benefiting, we're benefiting from the cost.

[Text overlay] Benefits on Wayne Snapp's farm:

  • Grass feeds livestock through droughts, heat waves, and cold snaps.
  • By grazing more days, less money is spent on feed.
  • More head of cattle thrive per acre.

[Matt Kowalski] For the environment it's great because we don't have additional runoff. We've got water staying in place and we've got good, healthy ecosystems that otherwise might be replaced with an ecosystem that could somehow contribute pollution to our environment.

[Text overlay] Farmers rely on federal and state cost share programs to install conservation practices.

[Wayne Snapp] We couldn't have done it to the extent that we have gone if we would have had to pay for all that ourselves. It's been a tremendous help and it's a good program.

[Matt Kowalski] It's incredibly important to have cost share available to farmers that are interested in implementing best management practices. So it's a win-win if you're helping the farmer produce an environmentally sustainable product.

[Wayne Snapp] I think that there's tremendous benefits out there to just try it, and then do like we did, and you see the value and you just do some more. And then you get more enthusiastic all the time when you see the benefits of what you're saving feed wise.

[Text overlay] Support local farms and clean water. Urge Virginia leaders to fully fund agricultural cost-share.

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