Starting the Grazing Season off Right

Turning livestock onto pastures as soon as forages begin to green up in the spring can be tempting. Research has shown that most cool-season grasses produce two - thirds of their season long yield during the spring of the year. Growth of these grasses slows as temperatures rise above 75°F. Properly managing stocking density during the rapid spring growth can help extend the stand of your grass. Being proactive in the spring will give positive results all year long.

Cattle Management Practices When Grazing Alfalfa

Dr. Donna Amaral-Phillips, UK Dairy Specialist - Alfalfa is a versatile crop that can be planted in pure or mixed stands with cool-season grasses (i.e. orchardgrass/tall fescue) for grazing or harvesting as stored forage. These fields can be harvested for hay when excess pasture exists and re-enter the grazing rotation when the growth of other forages slow. When alfalfa stands are starting to thin, they can be grazed instead of being preserved as hay, which can extend the use of the stand by a year or more.

Important Reminders for March

  • Soil test to determine fertilizer applications
  • Heat stress starts as early as May- plan for shade and cool water in every paddock
  • Reduce damage to forages and soils by moving feeding area and livestock often
  • Remove animals from extremely wet pastures- consider use of a sacrifice area or feeding area
  • Control competition from weeds and undesired forages where new seedlings are emerging
  • Inspect and prepare water systems to supply water to every paddock
  • Contin

Spring Reminders

  • Soil test to determine fertilizer applications, and apply fertilizer according to soils test results.

  • Heat stress starts as early as May- plan for shade and cool water in every paddock.

  • Reduce damage to forages and soils by moving feeding area and livestock often.

  • Keep animals and equipment off extremely wet pastures- consider use of a sacrifice area or feeding area.

  • Control competition from weeds and undesired forages where new seedlings are emerging.

Harvesting Excess Spring Growth

Cool season grasses are growing rapidly and producing large amounts of forages at this time of year. Livestock may not be able to keep up with grazing the excess growth during these times. In order to keep forages from becoming too mature and decreasing in quality, one good option may be to harvest some fields for hay while managing others by grazing. If not harvesting for hay, pastures should be mowed to keep forages from becoming too mature and to control weeds. Each individual should assess whether this would be economical for them.

Grazing Systems

Two main systems are used when grazing livestock. Continuous grazing is usually a low management system where livestock are allowed unrestricted, uninterrupted access to the same pasture for the entire grazing season or year. Using rotational grazing instead of continuous grazing is strongly suggested for numerous reasons. The rotational grazing system is developed by subdividing a large pasture into smaller paddocks and grazing these paddocks in a planned sequence.

Rotational Grazing Practices Improves Soils

Implementing rotational grazing practices improves forage productivity. Plants often show an improvement not only in growth but rate of regrowth. Improvements in soils seen by rotationally grazing directly impact forage growth. These benefits are realized through reduced erosion, decreased soil compaction, and improved manure distribution.

Alfalfa Grazing

Managing Spring Grass: Going from 0 to 60!

Spring can often be one of the most challenging times of the year for graziers. Grass growth goes from nonexistent to excessive in a matter of weeks and in many cases grazing livestock have a hard time keeping up with it. This can result in lower quality forage that is less palatable. The growth of new forage is also delayed by not removing the growing point of our cool-season grasses. The presence of the growing point suppresses tiller formation at the base of the grass plant. The following suggestions can help you to control spring growth and get the most out of your spring pastures.

Aerating Pastures, Is It Worth It?

Spike AeratorCattle producers in Kentucky rely on cool-season perennial grasses to provide the majority of forage for their cattle operations. Grasses, such as tall fescue, can be grazed for many years without any type of tillage tool being used on the field.

Interseeding Clover

Adding clovers to grass pastures and hay fields can offer many benefits to a forage system. Clovers interseeded with grasses improve animal performance, increase nutritional quality of pasture and hay, extend the grazing season, and reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer. The two most common types of clover planted in Kentucky are red and ladino white clover. Red clover is a tall-growing, short-lived perennial, which usually lasts about 3 years. Ladino white clover is a low-growing, long-lived perennial better suited for grazing.