Many cow-calf managers have been fighting the urge to get cows off the feed bill and back on pasture, says Jason Rowntree, beef cattle and forage utilization specialist at Michigan State University (MSU) Extension.

But when is the right time to start grazing? With high rainfall and cool temperatures, turning cows out prematurely can result in overgrazing an already short supply of forage. Overgrazing stresses plants, depletes existing root reserves and requires a long recovery period. The lack of leaf area diminishes opportunities to take advantage of free solar energy, he says.

Consider turning cows out onto pasture with 6-8 in. forage height. One inch of plant should yield 250-300 lbs. of dry-matter nutrition/acre, so 6-8 in. forage heights should produce total yields of a ton.

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