Getting more out of grass with rotation
Westlock, AB: A three-year rotational grazing
demonstration on a reclaimed mine site west of Edmonton is demonstrating
to Alberta livestock producers that better grass management can benefit
both beef production and the environment.
project on a 100-acre parcel of TransAlta Utilities’ Whitewood Mine
property is comparing the productivity of season-long grazing with
rotational grazing, says Curtis Snell, a water management specialist with
the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) in Westlock.
“More grass translates into improved beef gains per acre,”
says Snell. “Higher quality forage means improved feed efficiency and
reduced methane gas production per pound of feed eaten. Through improved
pasture management these forage stands should remain productive longer,
which increases the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil.”
Area producer Kim Bamber who leases the Whitewood site for
grazing, has provided 30 cow/calf pairs for the demonstration project. One
group of 15 pairs is grazing the season-long pasture, while the other
group is being rotated through the paddocks.
The project will also demonstrate how old pastures can be
rejuvenated with proper management, says Arnold Mattson, a rural
development officer with PFRA in Edmonton. He helped design this managed
“We hope to be able to double the carrying capacity of
these pastures over the next three to five years,” says Mattson.
While the 28-year-old pasture has been fertilized to
“kick-start” forage growth, Mattson says managed grazing, which leaves
plant litter behind on the soil surface, will begin to improve soil
“Litter on the soil surface will begin to build soil
organic matter,” he explains. “Improved moisture conservation and water
cycling will help activate the mineral cycle in the soil. Over the next
few years we should see improvement in soil quality and health and