Almost 200 graziers took part in a University of Wisconsin survey asking what they thought about mob grazing, how they’d define it and what they see as its advantages and disadvantages. Then producers were asked if they were interested in using the strategy or if they were currently employing it.
Respondents provided UW graduate student Anders Gurda with a general profile of a mob grazier.
“People are ranging from 40,000 to 2 million pounds” of live cattle weight per acre. “It’s reinforced that mob grazing’s definition is different to everybody and is necessarily changeable.” On average, graziers use stocking densities between 50,000 and 200,000 lbs.
The survey’s top five responses to what mob grazing is included higher stocking density, longer rest period, shorter grazing period, constant moving from one pasture area to another and forage trampling.
The top benefit, producers indicated, was even distribution of nutrients — manure and urine.
Producers also cited an increase in the soil’s organic matter, increased pasture resilience, a decrease in animal selectivity and weed control as positives of mob grazing. They identified increases in labor and time (to move cattle and fencing) as drawbacks.
A Wisconsin study, with limited funding, is only evaluating weed control. But farmers want more, Gurda says. “They do get frustrated at our inability to take on the whole scale” and are especially interested in how mob grazing affects soil health, he adds.
But that takes time, points out Jim Russell, the Iowa State University animal scientist who didn’t find any soil health advantages in a two-year study of season-long mob grazing.
“I’ll be the first to admit, trying to do anything with soil organic matter on a short-term basis is very difficult.” He estimates at least five years would be needed to evaluate that perceived benefit.