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Green grass on a field in Cornwall.

Precision Grazing

According to recent figures the global population is forecast to grow by 2.3 billion by 2050 meaning that food production will need to increase by between 60 and 70 percent to meet this demand.
If this target is to be met, many traditional farming methods will need to adapt to become more efficient, more sustainable and more productive.

Precision Grazing offers a solution that ticks all of these boxes. Pioneered in New Zealand, TechnoGrazing is a cell based, rotational grazing system that enables farmers to accurately and simply graze large numbers of livestock, in small stable groups with minimal labour. James Daniel has been consulting businesses throughout the South West since 2014 and believes methods of managed grazing will play a key role in the future of UK farming if it is to keep pace with the ever-increasing demand for affordable and environmentally conscious food.

James explains; “It comes down to the simple fact that grazed grass is the cheapest form of feed on an energy basis. It has the lowest carbon footprint (per unit of energy) because the animals do the harvesting which eliminates many machinery and labour inputs as well as being wholly sustainable. Grazing doesn’t have to become “the system”, but incorporating it into the existing enterprise reduces overall cost base and means that you are able to deliver more output per hectare with less inputs. That’s a key driver for our clients, we provide them with a system that is simple to manage and highly efficient.”

To ensure clients make the most of their investment Precision Grazing works closely with producers, acting on a consultancy basis to provide insight and training. “What we’re trying to do is provide the client with a system that is manageable, that increases stocking rate and improves the live weight gains simply by growing more grass and managing it in a calculated way.” The system does require an initial capital investment in infrastructure in the form of semi-permanent fencing to produce the ‘lanes’ that control the grazing of the livestock. However once in place, it provides a foundation for improving the pasture quality and offers flexibility to adapt to changes in stock or climate.

According to James, who was raised on a farm in North Cornwall, systems like TechnoGrazing can offer UK farmers much needed business resilience by reducing the reliance on purchased feed and extending the grazing period.

“Many producers overlook the true cost of housing and are often keeping their cattle inside for 2-3 months longer than they could be with a grazing system in place.”

James Daniel

A key differentiator of TechnoGrazing to other systems is the increased efficiency in terms of time management. Livestock are moved to a new cell every couple of days or 3 times a week, depending on feeding targets. Generally groups of 30-50 are used and often these will graze side by side. This means on larger systems over 200 animals can shift at once by moving just one temporary electric fence.

Regular movements mean that you are allowing the pasture to rest and recover between grazing which results in more growth and also improves the sward composition. Stocking rate and Live Weight or Carcass Weight production per hectare double in these systems whilst labour is halved. The capital investment in equipment and instillation is generally paid for within 2-3 years through increased gross output. This is without including the improvements in sward composition, pasture longevity and soil health.

For sector disruptors like James, a key focus is providing clients with the confidence, skills and knowledge to adopt the systems and overcome the ties of traditionalism. This month will see the first meeting of Precision Grazing’s “Cattle Grazing Academy” where a group of producers will learn the skills and knowledge to allow them to adopt TechnoGrazing or other methods in 2018. Cornwall has a strong agricultural heritage and culture, this combined with exceptional rural internet capabilities and leading research and development facilities make the region an ideal location for developers in tech-led agriculture.

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