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Beefs and Beliefs

Manage Grazing to Cut Costs

Longer recovery and taller forage is making life better for this Missouri operation.

I heard some good stories about the benefits of grazing management Tuesday in Springfield, Missouri.

I was at the Southwest Missouri Spring Forage Conference, an event that just completed its 27th year and drew a crowd of nearly 400 people.

One of the speakers, Steve Freeman of Hartville, Missouri, said as he’s progressed into higher-density grazing, he’s finding less and less response from a fall fertilization. Freeman and his wife, Judy, have typically fertilized in the fall to boost the amount of forage they carried into winter. As they have changed management they’re seeing less response from fall fertilizer.

Most of their pastures are fescue-based. But as they use higher stock density, longer recovery and less severe grazing, they’re seeing many more species of grasses and forbs appear as significant portions of the total forage.

The Freemans are using stock densities up to and surpassing 200,000 pounds per acre at times. That’s the equivalent of 200 cows weighing 1,000 pounds grazing a paddock of one acre in size.

They do not graze at that level all the time, Freeman says. Instead it is a tool they use when it fits their schedule and production cycle. They create these very high densities with portable electric fence inside existing electric-fence paddocks.

However, they still have relatively high stock densities, taller forage at turn-in and longer rest periods than when they were using fewer paddocks and shorter forage, Steve says.

Another advantage Freeman mentioned is the ranch is getting more drought-proof. He has more forage standing, but he also is seeing better recovery even in dry times.

Less fertilizer … sounds like a positive thing to me.

I’m planning a trip to see the Freemans this spring or summer and hope to tell you more about their story in the August issue of Beef Producer.

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