Anyone having a pet, whether cat, dog, fish, or bird, knows how expensive that small, household animals can be. Feeding pets is the main cost. Of course, livestock are much larger and the feeding costs much higher. Pastures are a wonderful resource to farmers and ranchers for feeding livestock and pastures can be even more worthwhile with proper management. The benefits of grazing on animal health are many. Having animals on pasture will improve reproduction because the livestock socialize naturally with less competition, reduce infectious diseases because the livestock are dispersed, provide exercise, and reduce foot problems because pasture is more comfortable than stalls.

Much of the earth's surface contains grasses but much of that land is poorly managed. America has historically "land rich" and we have not had to carefully manage each acre to survive. Countries much smaller, such as New Zealand or Ireland, have had to learn to nurture their land resources. Farmers and ranchers in those countries are "land poor" but "knowledge rich." It would be wise for the US to learn how to best utilize our grasslands because as the population increases we will no longer be "land rich".  An important step to better land management is improved grazing management.

Grazing is allowing livestock to directly consume the growing forage; grasses, legumes, and forbs, in a pasture or rangeland. It is harvesting by animal instead of by machines. Grazing provides good nutrition and other benefits to the animal and can lead to more productive forage growth. A normal grazing season in much of the US runs from March or April to October. Therefore, grazing is the easiest way to feed livestock for most of the year. It is also the best way to have healthy plants.

Appropriate grazing management is an important tool in effectively utilizing land resources. In the US, we don't need more land or even better land as some areas of the world. We only need to learn and apply the basic principles of grazing management. One basic concept that would add greatly to better production is rotational grazing. However, many pastures and other grassland areas are continuously grazed. Animals are permitted to wander across a pasture or range throughout the grazing season. Continuous grazing produces the lowest pasture yields and leads to deterioration of the forage resource because animals select their favorites and eat them until they are gone. Other species, less appealing, are ignored and allowed to grow past their prime development stage. More effective controlled grazing systems are presented in this topic module.