Part Five: Grazing Management Styles – Herding 

Here we are, part five of grazing management styles. I bet you thought we were done with this series of posts! I did too until I remembered herding. Herding might be something that most of us will never practice but we need to consider the benefits and downsides of herding. What is herding you might be asking? Herding is the act of moving and grazing your livestock to locations of your choosing. There are no fences, only a herdsman or two or three and the livestock. Oftentimes herder will put their livestock in corrals at night to keep them safe, but other than that the herdsman are responsible for the livestocks well being.

Herding is how we as humans domesticated livestock. We had no fences back then, no fancy portable electric fencing reels and certainly no electricity to power all of the fancy gadgets we enjoy today. What we did have back then was an remarkable sense of connection to the land and animals because oftentimes our ancestors spent their entire lives herding livestock. There are places in the world where herding still exists, and yes, the good ol’ US of A is still one of those places. Herding is common practice in countries that don’t have cheap oil like we do here in the US. My gut tells me that most of the worlds grazing lands are managed by herders and their livestock.

I love herding because it’s so flexible. No need to worry about fencing (other than exterior) or an over abundance of equipment. It’s just the herder(s) and the livestock. However with our modern day lifestyles herding is a difficult thing to do. After all we have to check email, Facebook and twitter. We also have to see who won the football game or go into town to pick up a few things. We all know the “demands” of modern life can be stressful.

However, herding is a real possibility for some ranches. Will it work for you?

Benefits of Herding:

  • Flexibility. You can herd your animals anywhere anytime depending upon what situation arises
  • Excellent grazing management is possible due to the flexibility of being able to move the animals freely
  • Saves a lot of money on fencing and maintaining fencing
  • Provides the herders with a job, puts money back into the local economy
  • Provides the farm/ranch with more long term sustainability.
  • There is a service that provides herders for people in developed countries. A lot of them come from South America

Downsides of Herding:

  • You need a herder. Where will you find one of these if you are in a more “developed” country? Maybe a herding service won’t come through. What do you do now?
  • Ultra-high stock density is probably not possible without some other assistance like electric fencing or a corral or an army of herders
  • If your herder is not attentive, you could end up with a “set stocked” ranch really quick
  • Grazing will probably be more chaotic and harder to plan. For example you won’t have clearly defined areas of forage that are in recovery or being grazing like you would with a fenced property
  • Excellent stockmanship skills are required by both the herder and yourself if you want to try herding, but they should be possessed by anyone who is involved in raising livestock

Well there you have it, herding. Sounds good to you? Could it work? I don’t know. I do know there are a few ranchers here in America that have started herding their animals because it makes sense for them and their operation. While most of us will not run out and start herding our livestock it’s a good idea to consider “out of the box” solutions. I hope you enjoyed my series on the different styles of Grazing Management and I look forward to hearing from you all in the comments section. If not, I will see you on Monday, have a good weekend!

Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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