Managing Spring Grazing To Reduce Excess Heading
May 2, 2008
Cool-season spring pastures are nearly ready to graze. While grass may be plentiful, remember that spring management affects your production all year. Sometimes there is so much early grass that by early summer much of the pasture has gone to seed. This lowers feed value and reduces calf gains. To avoid this problem, follow these steps:
- Start grazing early, especially if you have many smaller paddocks. Don't wait until pastures are 6-8 inches tall; otherwise your grass will get away from you. Instead, begin grazing soon after full greenup, but keep hay available. Less scouring and rumen problems will occur as cows adjust to the new, green feed. Once they are accustomed to the pasture your cows will eat little hay.
- Rotationally graze through pastures rapidly. Some folks suggest that you should graze every paddock twice within the first 40-45 days. Too much rest during fast, early grass growth just lets plants start to 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. And if you are certain you will have excess growth anyhow, fence off some pasture and cut it for hay before returning it to grazing.
- As grasses start to elongate, begin slowing rotational grazing to ration out remaining grass and to guarantee that plants get enough rest for regrowth.
Extension Forage Specialist