Allow Recovery Time for Warm-season Grasses

Allow Recovery Time for Warm-season Grasses

September 7, 2007

For many years "Take half and leave half" was the grazing management recommendation for rangeland and planted warm-season grasses. In some cases this may still be the right recommendation, but today, much emphasis is on grazing techniques that use cross-fences to form multiple paddocks. These techniques are known by many names like management intensive grazing, controlled grazing and wagon-wheel grazing. When used correctly, they permit increased stocking rates and produce excellent animal performance.

How we graze our pastures, though, does not affect the basic growth processes of the grasses. If we severely graze a pasture short, plants in that pasture need extra time to recover before they are grazed again. Warm-season grasses are particularly sensitive to recovery periods that are too short. This is true regardless of whether the plants are in a continuously grazed pasture or the plants are separated into many rotationally grazed paddocks.

Recovery time is particularly important as we approach winter, especially for warm-season grasses, and even more so if they are still recovering from drought. Plants grazed earlier this year may not have started to recover until they received rain. Severe grazing now, before they have fully recovered from their summer stress, will weaken plants as they go into winter. Most plants probably will survive, but next spring they will green-up later, early growth will be slow, and they'll compete poorly with weeds. So as we approach winter, "take half and leave half" still is a good management technique. It helps assure that your pastures will be healthy and grow vigorously again next year.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist