Spring Pasture Management
There are many factors that may determine when you turn livestock onto pasture this spring. It may be when the pasture is ready, after calving, or when your stored feeds are used up. Most are aiming for the timing to be when the pasture is ready. If it has to be earlier than that, we gave some tips in the previous post of how to manage pastures early. Now, let’s look at how to know when pastures are ready to be grazed:
Turning livestock out when the grass is ready is important to the longevity and productivity of your stand. The goal height for grass will vary from farm to farm, but a rule of thumb in a perfect world is 10-16 inches. Another option for spring grazing would be preparing the fall before and stockpiling some forages to let livestock on in the spring. A pasture stick is a great tool to judge the height and density of your pastures in the spring. Once your pasture is ready, you are able to begin rotation grazing.
There are many benefits to waiting until the pastures have grown enough to begin grazing. First is the forage quality. More developed pastures are going to have grasses that have higher fiber content and lower protein (see images below). This provides better nutritional value to the livestock as more digestible protein holds the forage in the rumen longer providing higher utilization of your valuable pasture forage.
Grazing taller grasses also contributes to the overall tonnage of pastures in the spring as well as throughout the season:
Another common concern in spring grazing is how wet pastures can be. Even though it will vary from year to year, giving the pastures time to grow and dry out a little more will benefit the health of the stand. Turning cattle into a taller, drier pasture will reduce the pugging and tearing up of the stand as well as erosion that can occur on a pasture grazed too early.
We know every year is different, and weather conditions can be a major challenge, but using some of these guidelines can greatly improve your pasture utilization this spring.