Build The Right Animal For Non-Selective Grazing

The Grazier's Art

We need the right kind of beef animals to improve the soil and covert forage to beef efficiently and profitably.

Published on: October 3, 2013

Improving the land with high-density, non-selective grazing is most profitably done if the cattle are suited for the job.

We've proven the best way to improve a pasture or range is with non-selective grazing. In that scenario the animals need to do two things:

1. Improve the soil on which they walk.

2. Convert forage to beef efficiently.

To improve the environment on which our cattle graze we need to have sufficient animal impact, stock density, and soil aeration, together with non-selective grazing and proper recovery periods.

If our cattle have a high relative intake (usually smaller frames) they will be able to handle high stock densities and non-selective grazing, assuming they are also adapted both climatically and nutritionally to their environment.

Most large-frame cattle such as populate the majority of the industry today would not be acceptable for this system where our goal is maximum sustainable profit per acre.

Further, excellent body condition reflects adaptation, parasite resistance, relative intake, overall health. It’s one of the two requisites for high practical fertility. The other one is correct hormonal balance. Everything revolves around good body condition being bred in, not fed in.

Our cattle need to be easy keepers, meaning they can do without most crutches, such as concentrates, insecticides and excessive care. In a word we need real cattle that can thrive out there and not cattle that require hotel conditions.

A strong herd instinct is desirable as they tend to stay together -- this makes managing them easier. Parasite and disease resistance is important, too.

Polled factor is desirable, along with no prolapse of the sheath.

Temperament has to be mild; in other words they need to have affinity for man, as we would not want cattle which want to charge us or run from us. All of that must be coupled with low-stress stockmanship on our part.

Meat-to-bone ratio is very important, as is early marbling, which goes along with precocity, which means early maturity. Light bone and heavy muscle is an indication of this. Some breeds, but more importantly some animals in some breeds, excel in all these things.

When we have a herd composed of individuals which have high practical fertility, are easy to handle, want to stay together, are resistant to parasites and disease, come to you when called and can thrive with non-selective grazing it becomes very pleasant and profitable to practice this grazier’s art and we can improve our environment much faster.

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  1. just saying says:

    Early maturity is viewed from lots of aspects, fertility, epiphseal plate to name two. Marbling can be independent of both of these.

  2. a says:

    How about rotating with another species, such as sheep or goats? This seems to be making a significant difference with parasite loads, and reducing the need to deworm so frequently. Used to run them together more, but had some heifers that were chasing small lambs one year, and discovered this benefit.

    • Jim Elizondo of says:

      That works but then you would have to have around 50 % by body weight of each species. Some people like that and some don't it depends on your preferences. Another option is to select for cattle that never require deworming.