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Manage Your Pastures

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Grazing management practices will help ensure there is enough grass in the summer pastures.

Rotational grazing is a practice that was implemented on our ranch years ago. Making smaller paddocks and rotating our cows through each one helps to get the most out of our summer grasses. It requires little more than an electric fence and access to water in each paddock to make it work, and it results in less wasted grass, better recovery on each paddock and the most efficient use of available resources.

It’s important to make sure there are adequate forages available, and rotational grazing helps us to accomplish this. We also plant late-season cover crops and add those into the rotation in the fall, so we can put off feeding hay for as long as possible.

It may seem like a no-brainer to utilize this environmental practice, but it can be a challenge on larger pastures where there is only one main source of water. Yet, this should be a real consideration for producers facing drought.

“According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the area covered by a drought classification jumped from just below 25% to more than 94% in a week. And rain was not in the forecast for the next week,” reports Delta Farm Press.

Mary Hightower with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture offers some recommendations on managing forage as drought risk increases:

  • Protect any remaining standing forage by shutting pasture gates or by using temporary electric fencing. Manage it like standing hay and feed it a few acres at a time to make it last as long as possible. A solar fence energizer and single strand of temporary electric wire can be installed in a matter of minutes to subdivide pastures as needed.
     
  • Rotational grazing is a good drought management tool. Rotational grazing helps maintain forage growth longer into a drought period than continuous grazing. Overgrazing weakens plants and leads to shortened root systems causing them to respond more slowly to rain and fertilizer than do healthier plants. Rotating pastures during drought conditions can help protect the pastures that will be needed for summer production.
     
  • Although all forages produce lower yield when drought occurs, some species including bermudagrass and KY-31 tall fescue can tolerate heavy grazing pressure and still persist while others are eliminated from the stand.
     
  • Manage grazing pressure carefully during prolonged dry weather to prevent loss of high quality forage species such as novel endophyte fescue, clover and orchardgrass.

Feeding hay and limit grazing during dry weather can stretch available forage on drought-stressed pastures.

For additional tips, click here.

On the topic of pastures, have you taken our pasture tour yet?

Check out this photo gallery of reader-submitted photos of the 2012 calf crop.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

debd (not verified)
on Jun 12, 2012

Thank you for this piece, Amanda! This is the kind of useful information that can truly change the world for the better, by preserving and improving the quality of our soils, keeping family farmers on the land, ensuring the welfare of our animals, and producing better quality more nutritious food for beef customers all at the same time. Driving through our drought-stricken part of the country this past couple of weeks, we noticed far too many overgrazed pastures where cattle are not being rotated and grass is not having the opportunity to grow back. Our area near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers has experienced the driest April and May ever on record. We had plenty of forage that came on and grew well very early this year, but we have been grazing our cattle as if in a drought all spring. We use management-intensive grazing and backfencing, and so far we have had plenty of new grass to take our cow and heifer herds to each day.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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