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Get your grazing plan in place

Delayed turnout and careful grazing may help drought-ravaged pastures recover from 2022.

April 4, 2023

1 Min Read
cattle in field
GOOD GRAZING: Drought in 2022 was tough on pastures and grazing lands across the Great Plains. Delaying pasture turnout this season and taking other grazing management strategies may help those rangelands recover. Curt Arens

by Jerry Volesky

After a long winter of feeding hay, livestock producers are anxious for spring and the start of grass growth in their pastures.

Last year’s drought conditions across Nebraska left most pastures heavily used and short. A good sign is that longer-term precipitation forecasts for this spring are looking a little more optimistic. Now is the time to have a plan in place for your spring and summer grazing. 

It is known that the combination of drought and heavy grazing from last year can lead to reduced pasture production this year, even if we get near normal rainfall. Because of this, some reduction in stocking rate may be necessary. 

Another management recommendation that can be difficult to implement is to delay turnout this spring. This will allow those grasses to accumulate some growth and help in the recovery process. This has also been shown to result in more total forage production from those pastures.

Another management tip for native pastures that were grazed first and into July in the 2022 season is to defer grazing of those pastures until later in the summer.

On native pastures, dominated by warm-season grasses, flash grazing or quickly rotating through several pastures in spring is also a method of capitalizing on early cool-season grass and weed growth. Remember that this must be for a brief period, and it does not alter the suggestion of delaying turnout to your primary summer pastures.

Producers might also consider seeded annual forages as another option that can be used to supplement any grazing needs. Planning can help make your forage season run smoothly.

Volesky is a Nebraska Extension range and forage specialist.

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