In an effort to practice sustainable farming practices we have embarked on Management-intensive Grazing or MiG for short. The concept as outlined in Jim Gerrish's book involves moving animals frequently to relatively small, fresh paddocks where they eat most of the grass and then move to a series of new paddocks while the grass gets a rest period to regenerate and grow. This is obviously more work than the traditional grazing method of fencing in a large area and letting the animals wander at will and pick and choose what they will and will not eat. The benefits of MiG are many in that the animals and pasture both benefit enormously from extra efforts involved.
In the past, we would normally begin letting our animals out on the pasture around the middle of May when the grass was at least a foot tall. Now, most years, the goats are grazing by the second week of April, (weather permitting!) in grass that is barely 4 inches tall. They stay a day and then move to a fresh paddock. The paddock then gets a six week rest before seeing the goats again and, with the fertilizer left behind, the regrowth is very lush. As the season progresses and things tend to get busier on the farm, the paddocks set up are a little larger, to allow the goats to graze for 2-3 days before the fences need to be moved to the next area, with the same rest area to follow.
Throughout the summer, the goats look great, even though they are getting no supplemental grain and the kids are not getting any creep feed. Additionally, with the constant rotation of pastures, the goats have had far fewer parasite problems than we'd seen in the past. We have been able to move primarily to an "as needed" deworming regimen, with the goats needing far less frequent deworming than in the past. As we continue to improve our forage, and by using this management philosophy we are striving to have a herd of strictly grass-fed goats. We feel this is the direction we need to travel in our quest to achieve sustainability for our farm.
Below are a few pictures showing the MiG concept in actual practice.
Goats in fresh paddock. Note electric fence separating from yesterday's pasture.
A few kids in the lush growth of a new paddock.
This is what is left after a day of steady eating. Mostly stems and lots of fertilizer! The paddock is now ready for a 6 week rest.