Time for some proactive pasture plans

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By Dean Slates

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of growing seasons, it may well be that weather-wise “normal is what ever is going on.”

The last two years have given us weather extremes, but there are still a bunch of weather combinations that may be experienced, and each brings a unique set of grazing management challenges.

Better. There is an old saying that goes, “To be successful, do ones productive practice 50 percent better than you do it now.”

Once you’ve adapted a management intensive grazing program for your farm, there are probably few grazing practices available to you that can bring such results, so you need to look to the alternate formula for success and that is, “Do 50 productive practices 1 percent better than you do them now.”

Graziers need to be looking forward to those little opportunities, and improvements, that come with forward planning.

Resources. Take a good, critical look at the grazing resources on your farm.

Project those resources into the future to see what will be available in late June, July, August, the coming fall months.

Look at fields that may be lagging behind during this period of optimal growth, and what is needed to maximize their productivity for the remainder of this season and for future seasons.

Start looking at your hay meadows to see which fields will be candidates for summer grazing.

If the rains stop, the 2002 season taught us alfalfa would still be productive.

It’s not too early to start looking for stockpile sites for that late fall graze.

Plan ahead. If your grazing resources look as if you could be short during a summer slump, pearl millet, sudan grass, sudan-sorghum crosses, corn, turnips, even oats, triticale, and cereal grain rye can be planted to extend the pasture opportunities.

The key to making these crops work is to plan ahead and have them ready when you need them.

While you are examining the pastures, ask yourself if there are there weeds or plants not being eaten.

Those weeds take up productive space (and nutrients) and you need to devise a strategy to get them controlled before they set seed and spawn a “batch of young-uns”.

Planning. It may well be that the one feature that distinguishes the grazier from someone who just turns out their animals on to a pasture is planning, and then executing those plans proactively and productively.

You are busy at this time of year, but don’t overlook the need to plan.

There are just some things that can only be observed (and planned) during the production season.

Look to others. Here’s a final note: There are grazing field days, pasture walks and tours scheduled in many eastern and east-central Ohio counties this growing season.

Check with your local office of OSU Extension to learn more about the educational opportunities.

Most of the events are on site with an opportunity to talk to the real grazing experts, meaning those who are actually making grazing work productively (and profitably) on their farms.

(The author is the OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent for Holmes County, Ohio. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)

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