Four Reasons Multi-species Grazing is Better
Livestock parasite infestations can reap dramatic effects on your profits and sanity. They effect weight gain and overall health of the animal sometimes resulting in death. Mult-species grazing in a rotational system can eliminate parasitic problems and even eliminate the need to use wormers and other means yielding your farm or homestead more profitable. An even greater advantage to grazing multiple species is that most livestock do not share the same parasite. This one advantage will gain the livestock producer time and money. There no longer will be a need to gather up the animals and medicate them. The added time and money can be better served on management of other problems.
Multi-species grazing increases pasture diversity perhaps better than any other grazing system. All livestock species prefer to eat different things. Cattle graze, sheep graze and browse some, while goats browse mostly and graze some. For example, consider a simple system of managing cattle and goats on pasture. In this example let’s say cattle get first dibs on the pasture and eat the grass and legumes. The goats follow, cleaning up the pasture of invasive species like iron weed, giving the grass and easier recovery for the next time it is grazed. In a pasture where cattle are solely used, these invasive plants compete with the preferred vegetation making it less efficient. By adding goats the grazer is given another management tool and can significantly increase profits. Livestock species numbers can be fluctuated when needed to increase diversity of other plant species.
As a young man, and still to this day my favorite job on the farm was spreading manure. I knew it was a job that paid dividends. Today I have a greater understanding as to why this is the case. Simply put, manure is a great fertilizer, but on a microscopic level it is an unbelievable one. Tiny microbes in the soil harness this energy putting it where the roots can have access. In addition, worms and dung beetles process and bury this waste to be used by the soil microbes and plants. In a multi species grazing system you have more animals distributing manure on the land further enriching the soil. It’s a win/win for all. The microbes love It and the population of them can explode. The plants benefit from it causing the animals to have a more diverse and abundant diet. The livestock producer is the last to benefit by the profit increase each year.
More Bang for your Buck
A single animal grazing system has very little opportunity to increase profits unless land is added. By grazing multiple species one can raise the profit margin by increasing the total number of animals grazed. Otherwise, you are limited and must resort to feedlots, more fertilize, and additional feed sources such as hay and grain, None of these additional cost are felt when adding another species. Its exactly like you gain a whole other farm. You gain another enterprise to sell each year for the same cost, and can actually see an increase in the stocking density of the initial species due to the added soil health and increased plant diversity. I don’t know about you but I’ll take free pasture any day of the week.
Multi species grazing is a wonderful way to increase profit, management capabilities, animal health, and soil health and diversity. With the exception of the banker, feed store and pharmaceutical companies, it really is a win/win for all. Give it a try; you’ll be glad you did.