Spring has always been my favorite time of the year. There is nothing better than driving down the road with the sun shining and the windows rolled down.
The fields are starting to turn green, and the hillsides are scattered with newborn calves, which reminds me that every spring is a new beginning following a harsh winter. It allows us to try again this year to reach the goals that we were unable to reach the year before. So, my question to you is, what are your grazing goals for this year?
One obtainable goal to keep in mind is proper management of your pastures. What better time to start than now? The warm days have been sporadic lately, but temperatures are rising, which is allowing the grass to start to grow. Proper management of early forage growth is key to quantity and quality of production throughout the grazing season.
Starting out we can allow early rotations through the paddocks, being mindful not to allow livestock to over-graze. The weather has been a little wet with all the April showers in our area, so quick rotations also help prevent any soil damage.
I would caution putting livestock in paddocks if soil conditions are too wet. If we allow livestock to walk on water-soaked ground, root damage can occur and potentially decrease growth for a long time. Care should be taken so this does not happen to large portions of your grazing area. Severe plugging decreases growth for weeks, maybe months.
Plugging occurs when pasture is trampled by cows, resulting in an almost completely muddy surface. Their hooves create shallow holes of compacted soil, damaging the pasture by burying it in the mud. Fence livestock onto a heavy use pad and feed hay or use a sacrifice area that needs to be renovated if conditions like this exist.
As we move forward, livestock should only be put in paddocks that have been given enough time for plant regrowth. This allows for better forage quality to follow you throughout the year. Rotate livestock through paddocks or fields at a pace that gives them just enough time to graze the tops off the forage. Move on to the next field and let livestock graze the same way.
This will allow the production of healthy plants with well-developed root systems to produce high-quality forage for future rotations. Paddocks that are well-drained or predominantly fescue are good choices to use early. If minor plugging occurs, plant production will not decline very much.
It may even boost the production of clover within the fescue because opening the soil can stimulate new plant growth if viable seeds are present. The spring is when we see rapid growth occur in cool-season grasses. The main reason is that now is the optimum temperature for growth, and all the rain that comes with April provides one of the most important nutrients, water.
Growth distribution of cool-season grasses and most legumes are greatest when air temperatures reach 70-85 degrees usually between the months of April and June.
Another goal we should all strive to achieve is being good environmental stewards. As I am preparing for Youth Quality Assurance, which is quickly approaching, where we reinforce good production practices to 4-H youth, environmental stewardship is one of the topics for 2022. Producers have a responsibility to protect our natural resources, including water, air and land.
Our practices have an impact on not only our animals but the environment and our neighbors. In today’s world, everything we do in agriculture is being watched closely. Are we being good neighbors?
We could create many goals under the category of environmental stewardship. Do you need to work on your fences to ensure cattle are not interfering with surface water sources and eroding stream banks? Do you want to improve your manure management program to prevent runoff? Do you need to create better and stronger relationships with neighbors to help avoid animosity?
Any of these goals would be a good place to start. We can always improve something, so why not focus on a goal that will help your land be more profitable and you to be more successful?
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