UNL CropWatch April 23, 2010: Manage Spring Grazing to Reduce Excess Grass Heading

UNL CropWatch April 23, 2010: Manage Spring Grazing to Reduce Excess Grass Heading

April 23, 2010

Spring pastures are early and growing fast so spring grazing should be good.

Some years, and this may be one of them, there is so much grass that by early summer much of the pasture has gone to seed. This can lower feed value and reduce calf gains. To avoid this problem, follow these three management steps:

  1. Start grazing early, especially if you have many smaller paddocks. Don’t wait until pastures are 6 to 8 inches tall, otherwise your grass will get away from you. Instead, begin grazing soon after full green-up. Be sure to also provide hay on pasture when grazing and continue making it available through early spring. Fewer 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.
     
  2. Rotationally graze the pastures, moving cattle rapidly through the paddocks. Some folks suggest grazing every paddock twice in the first 40 to 45 days. With too much rest during fast, early grass growth, plants will start to get stemmy, something you want to avoid. 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 or open the gates. If you are certain you will have excess growth, fence off some pasture and cut it for hay before returning it to grazing.
     
  3. Begin slowing the rotational grazing as grasses start to elongate to ration out the remaining grass and to guarantee that plants get enough rest for regrowth.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist