Fannin Soil & Water Conservation District

200 E. 1st St. Bonham, TX 75418
Tel: 903-583-9513 Ext:3
Fax: 903-583-7993

National Resources Conservation Service

Tel: 903-583-9513  Ext:3

Fax: 903-583-7993

Fannin Soil and Water Conservation District




C. W. Jones, Chairman
Billy Partridge, Vice Chairman
Leon Bowman, Secretary-Treasurer
Harvey Milton, Member
David Keene, Member
Sam Stewart, Team Leader
Randy Moore, District Conservationist
Steve Deckard, Soils Cons. Technician
Johnnie J. Kay, Technician
Mary Jane Godwin, District Secretary


Volume 11

Summer 2004

Number 1

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Short Duration Grazing System

By:  Randy Moore, Wildlife Biologist

The lush grasslands of over a century ago must have been a beautiful sight.  Historians recorded that indiangrass, switchgrass, big and little bluestem, sideoats grama, and other choice forage plants waved stirrup-high across much of our state but especially in Fannin County.  The song that says the “buffalo roamed” was true because they were always moving to find new grass.  They would graze the grass hard for a while then move on.  This is the concept of short duration grazing.

We later brought in cattle and then barbed wire fences.  I understand why there were so many range wars. Growing up on a ranch I learned to hate that stuff.  It tried every way in the world to stick, scratch or poke you.  What happened after the barbed wire?  NO MORE Roaming!  Early cattlemen did not understand the principle behind plant growth called photosynthesis.  My crude definition of photosynthesis is it takes grass to make grass.  My old plant physiology professor (which he must be by now since I have been out of college for 28 years) would want me to further explain photosynthesis as a process that makes plants grow by the manufacture of carbohydrates out of carbon dioxide and water.  With the help of sunshine you have plant growth.

About 60% of the total volume (by weight) of growth is available for the production of livestock and livestock products.  The rest belongs to the land and the plant for GRASS INSURANCE.  This insurance provides for erosion control, soil fertility maintenance, water conservation, stabilized soil temperatures, and plant development and reproduction.  Use beyond this point means LOSS of PLANT VIGOR and future forage production.  Further use means SUB-SOIL GRAZING.  There is no further use and recovery is very slow.  Nature does not give us something for nothing.  Plants make their food from leaves and stems then store them in their root system.  When plants are cut off by grazing or haying the plant recovers or reproduces more leaves from the energy stored in the root system.  If there is little recovery time from this cutting process there are no energy reserves left in the root system and the plant begins then to drop off its root system because it cannot continue to support it.  This makes matters even worse as the cycle continues.

What is It?  Short duration grazing is a system of grassland management whereby a pasture is stocked heavier than normal for a short period of time, then given a long rest to allow plant to gain vigor and thicken the stand.   Simply it is like cutting hay.  Every 28-30 days put the cutter in the field.  The same concept works with cattle.  Let them graze the grass, even pretty short, but then get them off and let the grass rebound.

How does it Work? You need a minimum of 3 pastures to be able to rotate.  You move the cattle when you notice the grass heights (60% by weight) of the pasture are removed.   There is usually not a hard set rule on how many days before you move your cattle to the next pasture.  Moisture and fertility conditions will cause you to speed up your rotation or slow it down.  Just watch the grass, that is the key.  You will find that cattle love to move.  Once they learn you are going to change pastures with them, they will be at the gate waiting for you to get there.

Why does it Work?   Plants will have a carbohydrate (energy) resource to allow them to make rapid regrowth (just like a hay field after cutting).  This improved vigor allows the better grasses to reproduce and gradually crowd out the less palatable ones.



Improves Forage Quality- healthy plants provide more tonnage, higher protein content, and consistency on a yearly basis.

Saves Labor and Fuel- with all livestock in one pasture they can be checked and worked in less time than if they were in several pastures.

Increases Forage Production- It is my experience that this rotation can increase forage production by 20-30 percent.  Not only that but large bare areas caused by trampling around water holes and salt troughs will disappear.

Reduces Parasites- Most internal parasites have a live cycle of about 21 days.  Moving before the 21-day cycle is completed reduces the parasite infestation.

Improves Wildlife Habitat- Leaving pasture vacant for long periods of time lets deer, quail and turkey have free access to forbs, legumes, and other preferred plants.  Prior year vegetation is necessary material for quail to make their nest.  Deer prefer to bed down in pastures that have lots of tall forage than wooded areas.


Better Water Facilities - Water is a necessity for each pasture.  This may require more ponds, water troughs, pipelines, and fencing.

More Fences – More cross fences are needed to rotate cattle which also means more maintenance.  Now it is common to use some of the new types of electric fencing to overcome high cost of the standard 4-5 barbed wire fence.

Closer Supervision – In the short duration grazing system close supervision of livestock and forage is required to determine when to move to the next pasture.  Look at the forage not the calendar.  If you notice cattle standing around the gates, restless, or by grazing later in the day than normal the cattle need to be moved.

 Summary:  Properly stocked pastures can benefit tremendously with a short rotation system.  If you need assistance on completing a forage inventory to determine stocking rates or further information on grazing systems please call or drop by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Bonham at 200 E. 1st. Street RM 14, 903-583-9513 x3.


Percy Hunter of the Windom area has a combination of  electric and barbed wire fences to regulate the grazing on his farm.  Grass production has improved greatly since he has incorporated short duration grazing.