University of Missouri-Columbia
MU Forage Systems
Agricultural Experiment Station
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Driving directions
Linneus, Linn County

Field Day
* September 23, 2014

Grazing School
* October 1-3, 2013






Contact us

David Davis
21262 Genoa Road
Linneus, MO 64653
Phone: 660 895-5121
FAX: 660 895=5122

Practical use Leader-Follower
Grazing Systems

Ron Morrow, Jim Gerrish, Paul Peterson, Fred Martz Professor of Animal Science, Assistant Professor, Research Associate, Professor of Animal Science

Successful business management is frequently tied to flexibility in production and marketing systems. In the livestock industry, limiting your production options is risky business. One of the buzzwords at our Management- intensive Grazing workshops is flexibility. In this article we will illustrate how leader-follower grazing systems can be used to allow greater production and marketing flexibility.

A leader-follower grazing system is one in which two classes of livestock having distinctly different nutritional needs or grazing habits are grazed successively in a pasture. The animals with higher requirements are allowed to selectively graze to ensure high individual performance, while the second group with lower nutritional requirements are forced to clean up the less desirable plant species and plant parts. This cleanup grazing also ensures that the sward will be uniform, high quality forage for the next grazing cycle.

Many producers fail to see how this approach works in their program or don't feel they have the resources to implement a leader follower system. What does it take to successfully manage a leader-follower system? First from an animal perspective, there must be two or more classes of livestock. In a cow calf operation, this can be as simple as grazing your higher producing cows ahead of the lower producing cows. The high producing cow will respond more to the improved forage quality allowed by selectively grazing than a lower producing cow. Grazing first calf heifers ahead of the mature cows is another option. Combining a stocker and cow operation will often give better stocker performance than grazing stockers alone. Other combinations are only limited by imagination.

From the pasture standpoint, it is necessary to have a series of pastures for the two or more sets of livestock to rotate through. Each pasture should have individual access to water to keep the herds separate. To do an appropriate job of grazing utilization while maintaining adequate rest periods, a minimum of 10 to 12 pastures should be available. With fewer paddocks, it is difficult to keep the nutritional level high enough for the first grazers without shortening the rest period. Single strand electric fencing is generally adequate to keep the herds separate unless two breeding groups such as heifers followed by cows, are being utilized. In the latter case, either multi-wire fences or keeping an open paddock between the herds would be advisable.

The following discussion illustrates two ways in which we use the leader-follower system at FSRC.

The Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station is the research arm of the
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
at the University of Missouri-Columbia

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