Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grazing Wet Pastures

The following are some thoughts on wet weather grazing provided by Dr. Bruce Anderson, Forage Extension Specialist at the University of Nebraska:

Wet, muddy pastures require special grazing techniques. Many times when the spring grazing season begins, pastures are soft and wet. Grazing can quickly get these pastures muddy and damaged by hoof traffic.

Special grazing techniques are needed to limit damage in soft, muddy pastures. One way is to graze all your cattle together in one small area until the ground gets solid again, feeding hay if needed. This protects most of your pasture acres from trampling losses. But it can virtually destroy the area grazed and need reseeding. This may be a small price to pay though, to protect the rest of your acres.

The worst thing you can do is graze a pasture for several days until it’s all torn up and then move to a new area. Trampling that occurs repeatedly over several days greatly weakens plants; doing this across a wide area can reduce production for months, even years.

In contrast, pastures muddied up by grazing only briefly usually recover quickly. Maybe not as fast as when the ground is solid, but fast enough to minimize yield or stand loss.

You can take advantage of this rapid recovery by moving animals frequently, at least once a day, to a new area. If this involves walking animals long distances, it might be better to subdivide pastures with temporary electric fences so you don’t increase trampling during the moving process. Fencing supplies you use around corn stalks during winter should work well for this temporary use. Once the ground firms up, you can return to your normal grazing rotation.

Don’t let mud ruin your pastures. Temporary grazing adjustments can save grass now and for the future.