September 18, 2008
Many Missouri livestock producers have benefited from attending grazing schools offered in the Show-Me State. For those who haven’t had the chance yet to enroll, Eldon Cole, Extension livestock specialist, Mount Vernon, is willing to share key points from his notebook with you.
1. Increasing the number of pastures in the system from one (continuous grazing) to any number helps utilize the pasture more efficiently. Two pastures are better than one; four is better than two; eight is great. As you go beyond an 8- to 12-pasture rotation, the benefits lessen in beef cow operations. Always try to give a pasture about 4 weeks rest before coming back to it.
2. Rotate pastures rapidly when they’re growing rapidly.
3. When estimating forage, error on the side of safety. Overestimate how much pasture your livestock will consume and underestimate the amount of pasture available.
4. Avoid grazing cool-season grasses shorter than 3 inches in height; most warm-season grasses will need 5-6 inch stubble height.
5. Put a number on each pasture gate (an ear tag works great). This helps in record keeping and in instructing hired hands as to where they should put the livestock next.
6. Most people clip pastures too late for grass stimulation purposes. Late clipping may make the pasture look nicer, but you’ll miss the chance to get new tender grass to grow. Clipping should be done in mid-May in southern Missouri; 1-2 weeks later in northern Missouri.
7. Controlled or management-intensive grazing probably won’t result in improved individual animal gains. The exception would be if the new grazing practice enables you to drastically change the forage species, such as increasing the legume content of a fescue pasture.
8. Carrying capacity should be improved under a well-managed grazing system. So, if you think land is too expensive to buy, adopt some practices that will help you expand in another way.
9. Long, narrow paddocks require more fencing and tend to be grazed less efficiently than square or round paddocks.
10. Extra credit point: Calculate pasture size. It’s important to be aware of the precise acreage of your individual pastures or paddocks for planning stocking rates, seeding rates, and fertilizer and herbicide applications. Over- or under-estimation of square footage will diminish profits.
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