Well…this seems to be another abnormal spring, which actually seems to be becoming the normal! Cold temperatures appear to be taking their toll on pastures in the area. Grass seems to be slow coming on this year for sure, even in fertilized, well-managed pastures. Given the way the cattle market has gone and the fact that inputs do not seem to be decreasing, I am more convinced than ever that we need to do a better job of maximizing our forage production in order to decrease expenses. If you do not rotationally graze, I would urge you to consider it.
Continuously grazed pastures get no rest, and in many cases are overstocked. Most of the time, these pastures are grazed short in the early spring due to an early turnout and stay that way throughout the year. While it is easy to see that the pastures are very short above ground, what we do not see below ground is maybe the most detrimental. Short grazed pastures also have short and damaged root systems. This leads to stand loss, lower production and gives way to weed and brush pressure.
I think the major drawback for producers when it comes to managed grazing is that they think they do not have time to rotate cows. Grazing systems do not have to be complicated or labor-intensive. In fact, we encourage producers to start out simple by dividing pastures in half, thirds or even fourths and rotating cows every few days or even weekly. Some rotation is better than no rotation, and once the cows get used to it they will pretty much move themselves. Rotating cows also gives producers a good opportunity to look the cattle over and check them easier. Often, producers see the improvements of a simple rotation system and decide to get more intensive. The benefits of rotational grazing include better overall forage utilization, maintaining pastures in a vegetative state, more uniformly grazed pastures, better forage diversity (you will notice legumes and other grasses in your pastures that you did not know were there), better animal performance, improved soil health, etc. As an added incentive, there is also cost-share monies available to help producers establish grazing systems through your local NRCS office. Funding is available to help with interior fencing and watering systems. NRCS staff can also help with grazing system design and layout.
This article was written by staff with the University of Missouri Extension.