Due to the dramatic increase in fertilizer prices over the past several months, livestock producers are wondering how they can get the most bang for their buck with limited funds for fertilizer and lime purchases. 

A current soil test takes out the guesswork and prevents the producer from under or over-applying lime and fertilizer, either of which will decrease your efficiency and profitability. Virginia Tech soil test laboratory recommendations are based on research conducted for Virginia soils and climate. 

Livestock producers can reduce fertilizer purchases by implementing rotational grazing systems on their farms.

Rotational grazing is a management intensive system that concentrates animals within a relatively small area (paddock) for a short period of time, e.g. 1-3 days for beef cattle.  Pastures are divided into multiple paddocks using a temporary fence. 

Moving livestock to another paddock before over-grazing allows the forage to recover and resume growth. Animals are moved according to a flexible schedule based on herd size, the amount of land available, quality of forages in the paddock, and forage consumption.

Missouri [1] researchers estimated that grazing animals recycle 75-85 percent of forage nutrients consumed. An even distribution of manure throughout a paddock is required for productive plant growth. 

Intensity of grazing rotations affects the manure coverage in paddocks. In an intensive rotational grazing system there is an even distribution of manure because animals compete for the available forage in the paddock before being moved to another paddock. 

The Missouri researchers calculated that under continuous grazing practices it would take 27 years to obtain one manure pile per every square yard within a pasture. Conversely, it would take 2 years to achieve the same manure pile density using a two-day rotation. [2]