The Influence Of High-density Grazing On Herd Fertility

Stockfarm|July 2020

The Influence Of High-density Grazing On Herd Fertility
Farmers are increasingly recognising the advantages of ultra-high-density grazing (UHDG) to improve their veld while also increasing their stocking rate.
Gerry Weber

There is no doubt that a UHDG management system can improve the veld and promote diversity in every possible way – from grasses, shrubs and legumes, to insect and bird life.

However, farmers are quick to say that the system does not work if they incorrectly apply UHDG, also known as mob grazing or high-density grazing, or if the results obtained are different from what they expected. One of the system’s negative aspects is a possible decrease in conception rates. Yet you cannot expect to make a radical change to your management system without the conception rate being affected.

A balance between profit drivers

Stocking rate is the greatest profit driver in a cattle farming enterprise, followed by fertility and growth. Stocking rate and growth both have a negative effect on fertility; profitability therefore requires a balance between these three components. Having a high stocking rate but low conception is not conducive to a profitable business. Similarly, a high conception rate means nothing if you don’t have enough animals. Weaning weight is also not indicative of profitability.

So why focus on fertility if we want to increase the stocking rate and kilograms of meat that can be produced per hectare (profit per hectare)? In a cattle farming enterprise, it is all about body condition. Every single breeding and management decision you take influences body condition, and vice versa.

How do I go about it?

Applying UHDG on your farm might seem like an easy task. After all, you only need to learn a few tricks of the trade from a farmer who is already applying the system and then apply the same principles to your farm, right? Wrong. This will only lead to one thing: a declining conception rate.

You cannot increase your stocking rate by simply using smaller camps without increasing your livestock numbers. You are merely improving the utilisation of available grazing. This will probably lead to an oversupply of grazing within a year, which will have to be burned if you farm in a sourveld region.

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July 2020