Overgrazing pasture or cutting hay too frequently damages forage stands, limits stocking rates and prevents optimum utilization by livestock, says Texas AgriLife Extension forage specialist Vanessa Corriher.

“The root system dies back and the plant will not survive drought or persist through the winter,” Corriher said during the recent Ag Technology Conference at Texas A&M University-Commerce. “Forage managers must allow the roots to rest and grow back. Adequate rest is essential.”

She said different grazing and mechanical harvesting systems offer a wide range of efficiency ratings.

Continuous stocking results in only 30-40% forage efficiency. That improves to 50-60% with a slow rotation program using three or four paddocks. With six to eight paddocks and moderate rotational grazing, efficiency improves to 60-70%.

Strip grazing offers 70-80% efficiency.

With mechanical harvesting, cutting hay provides 30-70% efficiency; silage is 60-85% efficient. Greenchop, at 70-95%, is the most efficient mechanical harvesting method.

Corriher said fencing is the key to efficient grazing but adds to expense. Forage managers also have to assure water availability in each fenced-in area. “Movable fencing is one option,” she said. “This does require more time and labor.”

Livestock graze selectively if left in the same pasture, picking the newest, most tender and most palatable grass. “That depletes the root system as livestock continually return to the same spot to get new growth. Rotational grazing forces cattle to take advantage of all forage.”

Source: Southwest Farm Press.