Rotational Grazing: Out of Grass?

Have you run out of grass? We have said it before: Rotational grazing is not an exact science. It is an evolving system that will vary from farm to farm and year to year. When challenges arise, it is important to ask questions and see what you can change to avoid the same thing happening again.

          If you have gotten ahead of your paddocks and have run out of grass for grazing, the first step is to make sure livestock have an alternative forage source. This usually comes in the form of stored forages to supplement the lack of forage available to graze. 

          When you get ahead of your paddocks in your rotation, it is important to stick to the planned recovery time as much as possible. It is best to avoid going back into paddocks before they are fully recovered. This is especially important during mid-summer dry times. Overgrazing pastures at this time can set back grasses too far. Overgrazing before pastures have recovered during the summer can create long lasting damage that the paddocks can have a hard time recovering from.

          It is important to evaluate why the livestock got ahead of the grass during your rotation. Was it because of the weather? Was it too dry in order for your paddocks to recover in the way you anticipated? Are you overstocked? Should you reevaluate your land’s carrying capacity? Use this situation as a learning tool to plan ahead for next year. 

          One way to plan ahead for pasture shortages is using annuals. Certain areas can be designated to cool season annuals that can be grazed in the spring or fall when pastures are too wet for livestock to be on. Other areas can be set aside and seeded into warm season annuals. Many warm season annuals can thrive in drier, hotter summer conditions. These forages serve as a great area to strip graze mid-summer when cool season pastures are slowing.

If you run out of grass, feed the cows, then look into the “why.”