Producers may want to graze livestock on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) ground coming out of contract, says Walt Fick, Kansas State University research and extension range and pasture management specialist. But stock lightly, he advises.

“Most CRP stands coming off contract are initially not in condition for full grazing pressure. A management strategy covering two to four years may be necessary to condition the plants to use,” Fick says. “Use a light stocking rate to allow good plant growth the first year. Adjust stocking rates in subsequent years based on stand development.”

After years of non-use, plants have low vigor and may have a limited root system, he explains. Topsoil losses from previous croppings and large spacings between grass plants are common, often resulting in low total forage production.

Former CRP land may also need fencing and water development, he adds.

“Fence off CRP that is adjacent to native rangeland. Experience has shown that animals will not utilize seeded grass as well as native sod when given a choice. Producers can partially overcome this problem by using grazing distribution tools such as water development, placement of salt and mineral, and burning,” Fick says. “Be careful to position water developments so they will encourage uniform grazing of the land.”

As with haying, if the land has not been burned for a few years, it would be a good idea to conduct a prescribed burn, he adds.

“Burning will not only get rid of old dead material, but should increase tillering and help the grass stand continue to develop. Frequent burning is not recommended in western Kansas, however,” he says.

More information is available by contacting Fick at 785-532-7223 or whfick@ksu.edu.