5 Solutions to Overgrazing


Certain livestock require grazing lands in order to be healthy. The only problem is that when demand levels are high for the products that livestock can produce, grazing lands are asked to support more animals than it normally would. If this process continues unabated, or the same lands are used for foraging without a break, then overgrazing will be the end result.

The solutions to overgrazing often seem like common sense. Farmers must be flexible with their lands and understand the relationship between plant and animal to get the most productivity. Livestock herds must be managed in size so that local resources are not strained, competing for the same forage supply.

In many ways, the solutions to overgrazing are a balancing act. Here are some additional solutions that could help to support healthy grazing activities.

1. Understand the plant growth cycle.

Being able to understand the plant-growth rate on grazing lands is essential to ongoing pasture support. Certain plants require shorter or longer amounts of time in order to grow. By rotating pastures based on the plant growth cycle, a large number of the overgrazing issues that are being seen today can be eliminated almost immediately.

2. Recognize bare soil areas and remove livestock from them.

Certain animals love to graze in one spot. It happens. Over time, however, this creates a bare soil area from their activities. Once this occurs, plant spacing issues in the grazing area reduce the viability of the living plants which still exist. Bare soil also increases the risks of erosion or weed growth. Recognizing where these favorite spots are and rotating livestock away from them will stop overgrazing symptoms.

3. Don’t rely only on grazing charts or planning worksheets.

Many farmers and pasture managers find that even though they use charts and worksheets to manage their lands, they still wind up dealing with overgrazing issues. That’s because people need to get out to that pasture and walk it to see what is really going on. Worksheets are never a substitute for first-hand knowledge.

4. Build a series of paddocks on grazing lands.

Paddocks ae small enclosures where traditionally horses would be kept and exercised. The same principle can apply to virtually all livestock when it comes to grazing. By keeping a series of 6-8 paddocks, restoration periods can be granted to lands that are taxed while the selective grazing behaviors of the animals can still be encouraged.

5. Have feed stockpiled to support grazing activities.

If livestock are not receiving an adequate amount of feed, then they will begin grazing early in the pasture. Heavy early grazing can prolong the needed recovery period for the pasture in question, so it can be helpful to stockpile feed to reduce early season grazing needs, allowing the pasture to establish itself.

When these steps are combined with monitoring rainfall, maintaining pasture residuals, and adapting to changing land conditions, then the solutions to overgrazing become much easier to implement. Mistakes may happen, but if we all learn from those mistakes, the land and livestock can both operate at a top performance level.