Known under a few different names - cell grazing, holistic grazing management, time controlled grazing, pulsed grazing - cell grazing is the best way I know of to turn soil destroying animals into soil builders. Grass has evolved with grazing animals. However, the animals used to be migratory, take a large munch on a grass plant, trample what was left, fertilise the soil with their manure and urine as they went, and move on – not returning to that particular plant for months. That gave the plant time to recover, put down deeper roots, put on more leaf matter and be ready for its next hair cut. The organic matter increased in the soil, there was a continuous mulch layer, the soil biota thrived, and the soil deepened year by year. Then along came paddocks! By enclosing the animals and leaving them in one area either continuously or for long periods at a time, the grass doesn’t have a chance to recover. The grazing animals eat their favourite plants first then each time these plants tried to recover, the animals hammer them again. The better forage plants become smaller and weaker, the roots retract, the ground cover reduces, the soil started washing and blowing away.
The answer is to confine the animals into much smaller areas to mimic the grazing and trampling of the huge herds – and move them to new areas frequently. Sounds simple in theory. We found it quite a bit more difficult in practice, but we haven’t given up because if we can get cell grazing to work on our property, it will transform the farm. To this end, Nicki is now doing a Holistic Managment course with NSW TAFE, and even from the very first day, she realised how the finer points, which she missed first go through, would make a difference. Find out what we did, what we learned, and where we are at now.
The animals race eagerly to the fresh paddock. In the middle photo you can see the paddock just grazed in the foreground and the fresh paddock where the animals are. Cow high feed. To have the amount of feed most of the year that we had in this paddock would be a dream come true.