Grazing Winter Small Grain Pastures
Did you look ahead and plant rye or triticale or even wheat last fall to use as extra early pasture this spring? If so, soon you will be rewarded. A few more warm days and grazing can begin.
These small grain pastures are an extremely important resource this spring. Not only will they relieve you from feeding hay, get your animals onto clean green grass, and produce excellent gains, they also will help you wait longer before turning onto your other pastures that struggled during drought recently.
To maximize grazing from these small grain pastures, wait until grass is 4 to 8 inches tall before starting to graze. Then stock heavily enough to maintain plant height between 6 and 12 inches. To accomplish this, either adjust the number of animals according to grass growth or sub-divide the pasture into paddocks and graze rotationally.
Stands, soils, fertility, and moisture all will affect stocking rate, so adjust stock numbers for your conditions. With careful management, you can have good grazing all the way to June.
One concern when grazing small grain pasture is animal death from grass tetany. Tetany is more common in lactating cows than in dry cows or young stock. Reduce tetany by feeding magnesium oxide supplements mixed with salt, molasses, or grain. Monitor consumption carefully and adjust the mixture so cattle consume about one-quarter pound of magnesium oxide per cow each week.
Small grain pastures can be convenient and profitable. Just use good management to optimize production and prevent livestock losses.
[April 2nd, 2007]
Dr. Bruce Anderson, Professor of Agronomy
Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Lincoln, NE