Understanding Adaptive High Stock Density Grazing
Adaptive High Stock Density Grazing (AHSD) differentiates itself from other grazing systems in its focus on flexibility. In this system, land use, forage utilization, animal performance and soil health goals are all considered in making decisions. AHSD grazing relies on the basic tenets of observation and fencing portability. Stock densities and animal movement frequency can be altered throughout the annual grazing cycle in order to adjust to changes in climate, forage dry matter (DM) production, animal performance, soil health objectives and lifestyle priorities.
Practitioners should strive to achieve stock densities of at least 250,000 pounds per acre at least once annually. Many current AHSD grazers have effectively used stock densities exceeding 500,000 lbs/acre, followed by long rest periods, to rapidly build soil organic matter (OM), increase soil water infiltration rates, tap into the latent seed bank, and apply “natural” fertilizer in the form of animal manure and urine. The key to successful implementation of such high stock densities is to allow the livestock to consume no more than 40-50% of total available forage DM before moving forward into a fresh grazing paddock.
Increasing frequency of livestock rotations and increasing observational skills allows for enhanced recognition of challenges and changing conditions. Over time, your ability to respond to those challenges gets stronger. As you rotate livestock more frequently, you will find that the mistakes you make are more temporary in nature and more easily resolved. A correction can be as simple as changing the size or length of stay in the next paddock.