Manage Spring Grazing To Reduce Excess Heading
Grazing cool-season grasses in spring should be easy, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist. After all, there’s typically plenty of grass and the animals do well. The problem is that often there’s so much grass that by early summer much of the pasture has gone to seed. This lowers feed value and reduces calf gains. Anderson offers the following tips to avoid this problem:
Graze early, especially if you have many smaller paddocks. Don’t wait until pastures are 6-8 in. tall; begin grazing soon after full green-up.
But be sure to keep hay available during early spring grazing. Less scouring and rumen problems will occur as cows adjust to the new, green feed. Once accustomed to the pasture, cows will eat very little hay.
Rotationally graze through pastures very rapidly. Some folks suggest grazing every paddock twice within the first 40-45 days. Too much rest during fast, early grass growth just allows plants get stemmy. Instead, let animals top off the pasture as best they can to keep as many plants from forming seedstalks as possible.
If it’s too difficult to rotate animals rapidly through all your paddocks, put some animals in each paddock if possible or open the gates. And if you’re certain you’ll have excess growth anyhow, fence off some pasture and cut it for hay before returning it to grazing.
Finally, as grasses start to elongate, begin slowing rotational grazing to ration out remaining grass and to guarantee that plants get enough rest for regrowth.
[May 1st, 2009]
Dr. Bruce Anderson, Professor of Agronomy
Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Lincoln, NE