By: Stacey Spenst, PAg, Regional Forage Specialist, Kindersley
Winter is a good time to review previous grazing plans and amend as needed for the upcoming grazing seasons. Addition of land, herd increase and decrease, productivity changes within pastures, seasonal impacts from the previous year and management strategy changes can all create the need to develop a new grazing management plan for your operation.
Grazing management is how to use range and pasture that will obtain the highest sustainable yield of animal products while protecting vegetation, soil, water and land resources. A grazing system is a plan for managing when and where animals graze in order to accomplish desired animal production goals while preserving or improving the pasture lands. Grazing systems can utilize a combination of native range, tame seeded perennial pastures, seeded annual pastures and other feed sources, such as crop residue or salvaged annual crops.
Key management principles to keep in mind when developing grazing plans:
Balancing livestock demand with the available forage supplies is critical to maintaining pasture health and ensuring livestock have sufficient feed supplies. Using proper stocking rates that guard against over grazing and allow for sufficient vegetation carryover is essential to maintaining pasture productivity. Sufficient carryover will differ in each pasture depending on a variety of factors, such as climate and plant species
Having livestock graze evenly throughout the pastures ensures that no particular areas suffer from overgrazing. Selective grazing can occur when animals tend to avoid areas and congregate frequently in others. Using portable watering systems, changing salt and mineral locations, fencing and moving cattle oilers and shelters are all ways of promoting even grazing distribution.
Deferring grazing during times when the vegetation or landscape is sensitive will help ensure maximum vegetation productivity. For example, grazing livestock too early in the spring will cause pasture health to suffer greatly later in the season. Allowing grazing one week too early in the spring can result in a decrease of three weeks of grazing in the fall.
Rest periods after grazing are essential to promote adequate root and leaf re-growth. By having a grazing management plan, appropriate rest periods for pastures can be designated.< /p>
For more information on grazing management or questions regarding grazing plan development, contact your Regional Forage Specialist or the Agriculture Knowledge Center at 1-866-457-2377.