Not only has frequent rain slowed spring planting, but many pastures are getting muddy and damaged by hoof traffic, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska (UNL) Extension forage specialist, in his latest “Hay & Forage Minutes.”

Anderson says special grazing techniques are needed to limit the damage in soft, muddy pastures. One way is to graze all your cattle together in one small area until the ground gets solid again. This protects most of your pasture acres from trampling losses, but can virtually destroy the area grazed and force reseeding. Perhaps it’s a small price to pay, however, to protect the rest of your acres.

The worst option is to graze a pasture for several days until it’s all torn up and then move to a new area. The trampling that occurs repeatedly over several days greatly weakens plants; and doing this across a wide area can reduce production for months, even years.

In contrast, pastures muddied up only briefly by grazing usually recover quickly; perhaps not as quickly as when the ground is solid, but fast enough to minimize yield or stand loss.

Take advantage of this rapid recovery by moving animals frequently, at least once a day, to a new area. If this involves walking animals long distances, it might be better to subdivide pastures with temporary electric fences so you don’t increase trampling during the moving process. The fencing supplies you use around corn stalks during winter should work well for this temporary use.

Once the ground firms up, you can return to your normal grazing rotation.
-- Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension forage specialist