How to Graze Cattle on Pasture

Three Parts:Checking the FencesLetting the Cattle GrazeMoving to New Grazing Pastures

One of the most sustainable and economical ways to feed cattle, grazing cattle on pasture is the easiest part of raising these beasts. The only costs and labour involved in grazing cattle is maintaining fences and turning cattle out to fresh pasture.

Part 1
Checking the Fences

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    Check fences prior to turning cattle out. Assuming that pasture fencing is already present, go around the perimeter of the pasture that you are to graze your animals in and check the fence for any broken wires, stretched wires, staples pulled out, broken posts, or trees on the fence line. Fix such weak areas as you find them accordingly.
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    Open the gate and coax or bribe the cattle through to the fresh grass. Quite often, just the activity of checking fences will bring cattle up to the gate or fence to see what you are up to. Cattle are always inquisitive and will go to discover anything that is new or different, such as activity out in the field or an open gate left deliberately or accidentally open. Thus, it shouldn't take them very long to find the open gate and the fresh grass beyond.

Part 2
Letting the Cattle Graze

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    Let them have at it! Grazing cattle is the most economical means of feeding them because you are getting them to look for their own food. They serve themselves, rather than you serving them.
    • Cattle do not need to be forced to like or eat grass; they will easily feed themselves until you determine when they should be moved to fresh pasture or when they start looking for fresh pasture.

Part 3
Moving to New Grazing Pastures

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    Repeat the fence checks for the pasture you want the cattle to graze in next before moving them there. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of checking fences before moving cattle. Sometimes you may want to check fences again during the time they are on pasture, especially if they are in an area that is big enough to allow them to graze there for three to four weeks or more, and especially if the fences themselves are old and prone to break from the stress put on them by the cattle.
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    Move the cattle from the spent pasture onto a new pasture or paddock. Cattle that are manage-intensive-grazed (MIG) will soon get accustomed to being moved at a certain time of day or after a certain time they are on pasture. Cattle that are continuously grazed on a large pasture are not trained as such, and require calm herding techniques to move them from one pasture to the other.
    • Cattle should be moved to fresh pasture when 50% to 70% of cover has been removed; this is important with rotational grazing that follows a high-intensity low-frequency form of grazing. Cattle will need to be moved sooner in a high-frequency low-intensity form of grazing where they only get to graze enough that they are taking only one bite from every plant and trampling the rest.
      • With continuous/rotational combination grazing (where one pasture is being grazed for around a month before moving the animals on to the next) remember to move them before most of the pasture gets overgrazed. This is where determining stocking rates or stocking density--used mostly for MIG--is important. The timing of when you decide to move your animals to fresh pasture depends on the pasture size (number of acres), the average body weight of the herd, and the forage quality and quantity.
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    Repeat the process from the steps above. Make sure pastures get a rest period of 25 to 30 days or more to allow plants to come back at an adequate height to be grazed again.


  • It is highly recommended to utilize MIG or rotational grazing for your pastures to improve soil quality and plant diversity and health and to minimize the need for fertilizer for your pastures!
  • Cows are intelligent enough to answer by name when they are waiting to be milked. The writer has seen this in action and it's quite impressive. However, it does require some effort in training them!
  • When cows graze, they mostly cross the field all facing and moving in the same direction. They are normally lead by one cow who can be used for management of the herd, by controlling this cow's movements when herding them into a new area.
  • Be sure to follow rest-periods for your pastures to ensure the health of the plants and to make sure that the plants are at an optimum height should they be regrazed.
  • Always check fences before turning cattle out onto new pastures.

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