Stay in the same field with grazing terms

Don’t get lost in the back 40 of grazing terms based on research and improved pasture management practices.

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Do you want to improve your grazing practices but get lost in the back 40 of grazing terms? As research and practices have improved pasture management practices, so has grazing terminology.

Why do we need all these terms to define what farmers are doing with their pastures?

As grazing methods change and improve, knowing what practices make sense in each situation is important. Simple changes such as adding a single field division can reduce weeds, improve animal performance and improve forages with no other inputs. However, knowing the correct terms can help us learn more about these newer methods and improve our grazing and bottom line.

Common grazing practice terminology

  • Continuous Grazing - refers to a pasture in which animals have access to the same acres for 90 or more days without any restrictions.
  • Rotational Grazing - practice of moving livestock from one pasture or paddock to another to provide rest periods for recovery of grazed plants.
  • Management Intensive Grazing (MIG) - management strategy that provides control of the grazing animal, emphasizing intensive management of several small paddocks rather than intensive grazing of large pastures.
  • Mob Grazing - the practice of allowing a relatively large number of animals to graze an area at a high stocking density for a short period of time.
  • Multispecies Grazing - different livestock species are grazed on the same pasture as one herd or one species follows closely behind the first species.
  • Silvopasture - where forest, forages and livestock production take place on the same piece of land over a long period of time.
  • Bale Grazing - Feeding bales on pasture in winter or low growth months.
  • Stockpiling - the practice of saving a portion of the forage produced in one time period to be used at a later predetermined time.
  • Adaptive Grazing – a non-prescriptive method of grazing that allows the grazer to be fully adaptable to ever–changing conditions. It is predicated on stock density and frequent movement and follows the Three Rules of Adaptive Stewardship. It is the only grazing method that facilitates continual progress and optimal profitability while building soil health and ecosystem health. 

Terminology used in various types of grazing

  • Animal Unit - measurement equal to 1,000 pounds of live animal weight.
  • Grazing Period - how long animals remain in a single paddock​.
  • Rest Period - how long a paddock can regrow before being grazed again​.
  • Seasonal Utilization Rate - the percentage of annual forage production utilized by grazing animals over the course of the grazing season​.
  • Stocking Rate - number of animals or animal live weight assigned to an entire grazing unit on a seasonal basis. ​
  • Stocking Density - number of animals or animal live weight assigned to a specific pasture area at a specific point in time. ​
  • Carrying Capacity - stocking rate that provides a target level of performance while maintaining the integrity of the resource base. ​

Michigan State University Extension holds grazing programs throughout the year. If you would like to stay informed about those grazing related programs, we encourage you to sign up to receive the Great Lakes Grazing Newsletter.

For more information, contact Michelle Sweeten at, or Kable Thurlow at

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