There is a cheap and simple experiment that any rancher can conduct.
- Select or construct a small enclosure conveniently close to where stock are routinely handled.
- Allow a number of stock into this enclosure. Aim for the equivalent of 250 to 1 000 MLU/ha, eg. 20m x 20m = 400m2 or one twenty-fifth of a hectare. Stocked with 10 cattle is equivalent to 250 to the hectare. The same enclosure stocked with 40 cattle is equivalent to 1 000 cattle to the hectare. I believe that a larger enclosure with a correspondingly larger number of animals is preferable but whatever is practical will do.
- When the vegetation in the area has been consumed or trampled, remove the stock. The time in the enclosure can be anything from a few minutes to not longer than one day.
- If the area is completely devoid of vegetation, keep the animals tightly penned for several hours and then release.
- Note the condition of the soil and the vegetation before and after stocking.
- Do not allow any stock into this area until the vegetation has regrown and is ready for defoliation again. In the case of the area still being completely devoid of vegetation, allow a year to pass and then repeat, perhaps less in high rainfall areas.
- For those in higher rainfall areas, please do not deliberately burn the experimental plot.
It is my bet that after a few years’ observation, most ranchers will want to replicate this management. I trust that you will find the experiment rewarding and worthwhile.