All About Grazing: Developing a grazing system could change your life

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Well, it has been just over a year ago that I retired from my job as Ohio NRCS state grassland conservationist, but I am still staying involved with grazing and forage activities.

Of the different things, I had the pleasure to be involved with, I believe the development and delivery of the Ohio Grazing School program has had the biggest impact.

Joint effort. The Ohio Grazing Schools are educational programs taught by OSU Extension, USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and Soil and Water Conservation District employees. Other partners have also assisted over the years.

The material was developed by the Ohio State University Extension Forage Team, which has members from both NRCS and Extension, and the material has had four major revisions.

The Ohio Forage and Grassland Council now helps by maintaining and assembling large three-ring binders full of information for the both the Pasture for Profit Grazing Schools and the Forages for Horses workshops.

Improve management

The schools serve to: 1) educate producers and agency personnel in the art and science of grazing management; 2) transfer new technology in grass management to producers and agency personnel; 3) improve the producers’ ability to better manage the natural resources.

The Forage for Horses workshops covered information on pasture management, pasture soil fertility, forage species selection, tall fescue management, horse nutrition on pasture, manure management, plant growth physiology, hay quality and storage, poisonous plants, and a pasture walk where plants were identified and how to design a grazing paddock system was discussed.

Reduce hay needs

A well-managed pasture can provide a large portion of an animal’s forage requirement mid-April through mid-November. Livestock grazing well-managed paddocks will spread their manure uniformly over the pasture instead of in loafing areas or near the watering points.

Healthy grass and legume plants are more productive if given the opportunity to re-grow in-between grazing events. You can improve forage growth by dividing the pasture into smaller paddocks and rotate the animals among the separate paddocks.

Understanding forages

Managing the forage is an important concept to understand to protect the environment, soil, water, plants and animals. Weeds compete with forage plants for moisture, sunlight and nutrients.

Good grazing management can keep most weeds out. A pasture that is continuously grazed, over grazed, or has inadequate soil fertility can make weed problems even worse.

Selecting the right forage species for the use and the soil type can help in providing a healthy pasture.

The lack of legumes is a common grazing concern. There are many different reasons why legumes are not at the recommended percent of the pasture sward.

Every farm needs to evaluate the reason that their legume content is not where it should be.

Bottom line

The Pasture for Profit grazing school is designed for the producer to provide valuable information in a fun atmosphere that can used to ensure your farm is environmentally responsible as well as economically viable.

Lifestyle. The goal is to make this educational event a fun, enjoyable and a one of a kind experience.

Andre Voisin, a pioneer in modern rational grazing management believed that one of the goals of a grazing system is to create a pleasant lifestyle in the country.

There have been 205 grazing schools have been held since 1994 with over 3600 participants through December 2012. Many of those that have attended one of the grazing events have found that grazing livestock can be both enjoyable and profitable.

The topics to be covered at the three day grazing school include; What is MiG?, What are your goals and objectives of your grazing system?, evaluating your resources, understanding plant growth, grazing economics, forage species selection, grazing systems and contingency plans for the good, bad and ugly, paddock layout and design, pasture soil fertility, how soils affect grazing, meeting animal nutritional requirements on pasture, fencing and livestock watering systems and pasture weed control.

Saturday, the last day of the school will include a farm visit to view grazing management practices, including fence and livestock watering systems in the field.

Mark your calendar

The Ohio Grazing Schools scheduled to date include: Mount Hope on March 18, 25 and April 1; Chillicothe, March 19, 21 and 23; a joint Belmont, Guernsey, Monroe and Noble County school, March 26, April 2 and 9; and Tuscarawas County on March 21, 28 and April 6.

More details on these will be announced in Farm and Dairy and in the Beef Team web Calendar as they become available. http://beef.osu.edu.

About the Author

Bob Hendershot retired from the USDA NRCS as Ohio's first state grasslandc onservationist and GLCI coordinator after nearly 37 years of service. He and his wife live on a farm in Pickaway County. He is still active in grazing and sheep activities. He is a Certified Forage and Grassland Professional (AFGC) and a Certified Crop Consultant (ASA). He was named the nation's outstanding pasture conservationist in 1999 and was inducted into the Ohio State Conservationist's Hall of Fame in 1998. He is also a past president of the American Forage and Grassland Council, and recently received the Bob Evans Leadership Award for being a "champion" for forages. More Stories by Bob Hendershot

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