The benefits of TechnoGrazing
TechnoGrazing could hold the key to productive and environmentally-conscious beef farming, research in Devon has suggested.
First developed in New Zealand in 1986, the TechnoGrazing concept is based on management-intensive cell grazing. Previous studies have indicated that TechnoGrazing can significantly increase production. More recently, a project in Devon has explored the environmental benefits too.
The four-year Agri-Tech Cornwall funded trial saw researchers from Precision Grazing and Rothamsted Research compare TechnoGrazing with a set stocking system.
The TechnoGrazing trial area was split into precisely defined lanes and then into ‘cells’, each with electric fencing and water supply. Stock was then moved between these cells every one to two days, based on the principles of rotational grazing. A similar size area was also allocated to set stocking, with plots continually grazed at a fixed stocking rate of approx. 1,500kg LW/ha.
Promising results for livestock and soil health
Dr Sarah Morgan led the research at the Rothamsted Research North Wyke site: “We monitored soil chemistry and looked at pasture productivity and nutritional composition. The beef x dairy steers grazing the trial area were also monitored closely.” Growth rates, meat quality, and animal health and welfare were all measured, she explains.
Results from the trial were promising. “While output per animal was slightly reduced with TechnoGrazing, the output per hectare was greater. On average, this was 50% higher than set-stocking.
“Throughout the trial, the carrying capacity in TechnoGrazing-managed areas also increased. Starting from just under 2,000 kg LW/ha in 2018, this increased to over 3,000 kg LW/ha in 2021 compared to a steady carrying capacity of 1,500 kg LW/ha in the set stocking area.
“One of the most interesting findings was that in the TechnoGrazing system, soil organic matter increased over the four years. While it also increased in the set stocking system, there was a higher rate of increase in the TechnoGrazing system. This is probably due to the livestock having to evenly graze and defecate across the whole field and the grass having a substantial break between grazing,” explains Sarah.
The trial results also suggest that TechnoGrazing can increase the proportion of sown species in a sward which could benefit those looking to increase the longevity of their swards, she adds.
“A real solution to enhance grazing system efficiency and sustainability”
“Overall, the results of this trial are really encouraging. They show that TechnoGrazing offers a real solution for farmers looking to enhance efficiency and sustainability of grazing systems.
“The aim now is to put together an even longer-term research project so we can fully understand the benefits to soil health and pasture quality. We’d also like to look at the wider impact on invertebrate biodiversity in a TechnoGrazing system.”
For farmers who are interested in moving towards a TechnoGrazing system, Sarah offers this advice: “Start simple and transition slowly. If you are currently set stocking, start by putting an electric fence down the middle of a field and just have two paddocks to begin with. And then once you're managing the two paddocks, start splitting it further. This is the best way to start getting to grips with more in-depth grassland management and puts you into the right mindset to adopt a TechnoGrazing strategy.”
About Dr Sarah Morgan
Dr Morgan graduated in Animal Science at Aberystwyth University before completing a PhD in the fatty acid composition of beef and grass in 2015. In 2018, she joined Rothamsted Research at their North Wyke site to work on the AgriTech Cornwall TechnoGrazing project. Since completing the project, she has taken up a post as Beef and Sheep Lecturer at Harper Adams University.
Sarah's professional interests encompass developing more efficient forage-based ruminant production systems which result in consistent, high quality, safe products for the consumer whilst also safeguarding the environment. Twitter: GrazyScientist
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