|Photo: Peggy Sellers - Perdue Univ.|
I had the chance to visit several pastured poultry farms this week and I was reminded of how this was done in the early 1920's. Birds were routinely pastured to take advantage of sunlight (vit. D) and the natural grasses they ate. What is so different between operations of today and yesteryear is that we tend to restrict our birds in one area as we graze. This creates a host of problems as the grass becomes over-run by the birds and heavy loads of manure accumulate.
Rotational grazing should be just that. Moving the birds frequently to keep grass in good condition and to help spread out manure loads in a field being grazed. You should move birds before all the grasses they are bedding on become stomped down. Supplemental feeding is also important at this time to make sure the birds are receiving all essential nutrients that they are not getting from the grasses they are feeding on. Clover for example has a high protein content than most grass species. Therefore the corn in a full feed poultry diet will help compensate and provide the energy component of the birds daily nutritional needs.
By rotation of the pasture, the sun can help sanitize the ground last occupied by the birds. With frequent rotation, the pastures can recover more quickly and in turn provide more forage opportunities for the birds. Your pasture after the move of the birds will tell how well you are doing on your pasture management program.