Then score the opportunity for growth before grazing or regrowth afterwards. “What we’re talking about is did the plant grow a full complement of leaves?” Steffens says. “Basically, if it hasn’t been grazed, that’s a +2. If the cows got most of it, that’s a +1. If the plants are surviving but it’s not all that spiffy, it’s a 0. Then a -1 or a -2.”

Add your three scores for the pasture. “If it’s a positive number, things are probably getting better,” he says. “If you’ve got a negative number, things are probably getting worse.”

But don’t despair if the score isn’t good. “I’ve never known anybody to get all positive numbers in every pasture,” he says. “So the secret is, if you’ve got a negative number in a pasture this year, make sure it doesn’t happen next year. Don’t be in the same place the same time every year.”

To accomplish that may require you to plant fence posts and pipelines, he says. “You’ve got to have the infrastructure to make the animals go where you want them to go and stay away from where you want them to stay away from,” he says.

“If all you’ve got is one big pasture, you’ve got one tool—stocking rate. If you’ve got more than one pasture and adequate water to carry the animals, you can affect when they’re there, how long they’re there, how long they’re gone, where they go when they get there, and stocking rate.”

Other tools to more evenly distribute grazing pressure are salt and mineral stations, lick tubs and conditioning cows to eat less desirable plants.

“This ain’t rocket science,” Steffens says. “It’s a lot harder. It’s simpler, but it’s harder. Rocket scientists, everything is in a vacuum. They send it out there and it goes where they want it to go. With this, we’ve got a whole bunch of balls we need to keep in the air.”


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