Control grazing versus continuous grazing
Control grazing allows the manager a better utilization of the forage at hand because this grazing method gives more control over grazing animals. During periods of fast growth, the excess forage can be harvested for hay. Control grazing can stretch forage availability and the grazing season as spring forage growth slows during the hot summer months. It also slows the gradual predominance of less palatable and less nutritious plants because goats are forced to consume all plants before moving on.
Another level of managerial control is achieved by having more than one pasture. Under a control grazing system a) goats are easier to handle and more docile because they are in frequent contact with humans when fences, water tanks and mineral troughs are moved; b) plants that are sensitive to close and continuous grazing will persist longer and producer better; c) less forage is wasted by trampling and soiling; d) urine and feces are distributed more uniformly; and e) managerial and observational skills of the producer will improve because goats will be observed more frequently and pasture species and productivity will be evaluated more carefully. Conversely, control grazing may not be beneficial because of a) high cost; b) unsatisfactory layout, such as long, narrow paddocks or wet and dry areas within the same paddock; c) overstocked pastures, d) available forage becoming mature and of low nutritive value when the rest period is too long; and d) pastures dominated by low forage quality.
Continuous grazing or stocking means that goats are maintained on one pasture for the entire grazing season. Therefore, the goat makes the decision as to where to graze, when to graze, where to congregate and to selectively graze unless the stocking rate is too high. Goats may overgraze the plants they prefer and undergraze other, less preferred plants if the stocking density is not adjusted as conditions change. Forage availability may be ideal, too high or too low during different periods of the same grazing season. Therefore, adjusting the stocking density as needed greatly improves forage utilization. Temporary fences can be used to fence off portions of the pasture and harvest surplus forage for hay. Finally, certain forage species such as switchgrass, big bluestem, indiangrass and johnsongrass are not suitable for continuous grazing unless the stocking rate is low enough to maintain a 6- to 8-inch leafy stubble.
Luginbuhl, J-M. 2006. Pastures for Meat Goats. In: Meat Goat Production Handbook, ed. T.A. Gipson, R.C. Merkel, K. Williams, and T. Sahlu, Langston University, ISBN 1-880667-04-5.