Achieving even grazing distribution improves harvest efficiency, increases grazing capacity and results in better forage quality. The location of water and shade, fencing patterns, pasture size and stocking density are all common management practices that impact grazing distribution. Producers also can do this by matching classes of livestock with pasture characteristics whenever possible.
The United States Forest Service reports the following:
- Yearling cattle utilize pastures more uniformly over variable terrain than cows with calves or mixed classes.
- Yearling heifers will utilize steep rocky terrain more evenly than yearling steers.
- Cows and calves utilize forages nearest the water much more heavily than do yearlings.
- Older cows with calves tend to use sheltered areas most, entering open terrain only when forced to seek forage.
- Young cows with calves tend to use open grassland, entering inaccessible terrain only when faced with lack of forage.
- Match pasture characteristics with the most suitable class of livestock. Put yearling cattle in a pasture with variable terrain and put young cows with calves in more open, level pastures.