Strip grazing (or 'ration' grazing) is a winter management tactic which involves confining sheep into small areas or 'strips' in the paddock for short periods of time. Pasture is rationed to animals in the strip and intake can be adjusted to achieve a target level of production (for example liveweight maintenance, controlled wool growth).
Strip grazing is a tactic used to increase FOO during winter and is a valuable management tactic for woolgrowers wanting to increase stocking rates, maintain stocking rates in poorer seasons, or improve the quality of wool produced. By confining animals in a small area, this effectively removes the grazing pressure on the remaining pasture, resulting in higher leaf area and faster pasture growth in these ungrazed areas. Consequently, more feed is available which can allow potentially higher stocking rates and reduce the need for supplementary feed.
When would I use strip grazing?
Strip grazing could be used whenever grazing pressure is high (that is, when the rate of removal of pasture exceeds the supply of pasture). This occurs when pasture growth is slow and/or stocking rates are high.
Strip grazing would rarely be suitable for low stocking rates as winter pastures can usually sustain these grazing pressures. However, if pasture growth is hindered by soil fertility or low plant density, strip grazing may be beneficial. Early season breaks usually provide sufficient pasture so strip grazing is unlikely to be beneficial.
When stock numbers are near the potential stocking rate, strip grazing could be used routinely. Pasture is rationed to animals in the strip, and a pre-determined daily intake is assured, therefore making target production more achievable. Strip grazing may complement deferred grazing to prevent the rapid removal of accumulated pasture.
Strip grazing results in more available FOO during winter. Thus, potentially higher stocking rates may be carried and supplementary feed requirements may be reduced.
How do I strip graze?
- Defer the area to be strip grazed until FOO reaches at least 800kg DM/ha. Refer to the deferred grazing calculator.
- Assess the starting FOO and use the formula in the strip grazing calculator to determine the residual FOO and the strip area required. Early in the season when pasture growth is slow, the strip area will be bigger.
- Continue strip grazing until spring pasture growth rates can maintain FOO under higher stocking rates.
- Dry sheep are generally used in strip grazing. Pregnant ewes may be strip grazed, although it is strongly advisable to monitor ewes during pregnancy to prevent condition score falling below 2.0. Strip grazing is not recommended during lambing.
- Electric fencing is the most effective method of constructing the strips. There are several commercial options available.
The strip grazing calculator allows you to determine the area of the strip required for your sheep.