Spring pasture management affects grazing production all year, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist. He shares grazing tips to help reduce excess heading.
“Grazing cool-season grasses in spring should be easy. You have lots of grass and the animals do well. The problem is, sometimes we have so much grass that by early summer much of the pasture has gone to seed. This can lower feed value and reduce calf gains. To avoid this problem, three steps must be followed,” he says.
“First, start grazing early, especially if you have many smaller paddocks.” If you wait until pastures are 6-8” tall, the grass will get away from you. Graze soon after full greenup, but also keep hay available, because fewer scouring and rumen problems will occur as cows adjust to the new, green feed. “Once they are accustomed to the pasture, your cows will eat very little hay,” Anderson says.
“Second, rotationally graze through pastures very rapidly.” Some suggest grazing every paddock twice within the first 40-45 days. Too much rest during fast, early grass growth makes for more-stemmy plants, which should be avoided. Animals should top off the pasture as best they can to keep plants from forming seed stalks. If it’s too difficult to rotate animals rapidly through all your paddocks, put some animals in each paddock, if possible, or open the gates. If you’re certain you will have excess growth, fence off and cut some pasture for hay before returning it to grazing.
“Finally, as grasses start to elongate, begin slowing the rotational grazing to ration out remaining grass and to guarantee that plants get enough rest for regrowth. Good luck, you can do it.”