Pasture Renovation Decision Making
Over time, the need to renovate pastures is inevitable. The question is, how do you know when a pasture needs renovated? Here are a few things to consider...
This point is simple to figure out: Do your pastures meet the needs (quality and tonnage) of what you are feeding? If the answer is “no”, then you need to renovate in some way. Maybe you had a beef cattle pasture that now needs to provide forage for dairy cattle. Or a set stock pasture that is now going to be rotationally grazed. Or maybe you bought 60 more cows! All of those situations change what you need in your pasture.
The stand count of your grass or mixed pasture is important to its productivity in terms of yield and forage quality. As your stand of desirable species is diminished, Mother Nature fills in the blank spots. Generally, she does this with species that are undesirable in a pasture (weeds). This is why keeping an eye on the density of your stand is important to keep it fully stocked with high quality forages. We recommend some form of renovating when your density is reaching 60% or lower coverage on a square foot basis.
Some pastures can remain dense, but just be slow producing overall. If your dry matter tonnage is getting below 200# per inch, then we would recommend some form of renovating. A pasture stick can be used to get that measurement.
First, slide the stick close to the ground and count the dots that are visible through the forage:
Next, use the chart on the other end of the stick to determine estimated dry matter in pounds per inch:
Maybe your stand has good density and is productive enough, but it has evolved into a single species or just a few species taking over. In this situation, we would recommend focusing on increasing your diversity if you are able. Rotational grazing and adequate rest periods allow for a pasture to maintain a diverse blend of grasses, legumes, and forbs. This can be done by interseeding additional species.