Google Translate Disclaimer

A number of pages on the Government of Saskatchewan`s web site have been professionally translated in French. These translations are identified by a yellow text box that resembles the link below and can be found in the right hand rail of the page. The home page for French-language content on this site can be found here:

Renseignements en Français

Where an official translation is not available, Google™ Translate can be used. Google™ Translate is a free online language translation service that can translate text and web pages into different languages. Translations are made available to increase access to Government of Saskatchewan content for populations whose first language is not English.

The results of software-based translation do not approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator. The translation should not be considered exact, and may include incorrect or offensive language Government of Saskatchewan does not warrant the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information translated by this system. Some files or items cannot be translated, including graphs, photos, and other file formats such as portable document formats (PDFs).

Any person or entities that rely on information obtained from the system does so at his or her own risk. Government of Saskatchewan is not responsible for any damage or issues that may possibly result from using translated website content. If you have any questions about Google™ Translate, please visit: Google™ Translate FAQs.

The Cost of Overgrazing - Why it doesn’t pay to push your pasture

By Sarah Sommerfeld, PAg, Agri-Environmental Specialist

May 2018

Managing pastures for maximum productivity is a long term goal, but weather fluctuations, fire, insect or wildlife damage and any other unforeseen circumstances can quickly create a complex balancing act. During times of dry conditions, the urge to use as much of what little forage growth there is, may be overwhelming. Before doing so, producers must consider the future consequences of pushing pastures to obtain more grazing days.

No Roots – No Grass

Roughly two-thirds of total plant growth occurs below ground, while the above ground portion only makes up about one-third. The extensive root system forms the lifeline for forage plants and helps ensure long-term survival as well as productivity. Moisture stress can reduce or impair root growth even without added grazing pressure. When plants are repeatedly grazed, without a recovery period, the root system becomes increasingly shallow. This results in plants that are less vigorous, robust and productive.

Resist the Urge

The amount and distribution of dead plant material, also known as litter, on a pasture is an indicator of previous grazing management. Litter is an essential component of a healthy pasture and ecosystem. The litter left behind helps to shade and cools the soil, which reduces evaporation and conserves moisture. Litter also helps to protect the soil from erosion and maintains soil stability. 

Removing every last blade of grass leads to decreasing litter carryover and increases recovery time. Effective rest is the time required for plants to recover during the growing season. The amount of rest needed depends on the amount of leaf area remaining after grazing and the time of grazing during the growing season. Under ideal conditions, effective rest for tame pastures is four to six weeks. If limited moisture is available, the plant will not regrow as quickly and a longer rest period is needed. Overgrazed plants will use root reserves for leaf area regrowth and stop allocating resources to root growth in an attempt to survive short-term. When dry conditions persist into subsequent years, desirable plants will first reduce production and eventually disappear from a pasture.

It Takes Moisture to Grow Grass

There are no quick-fix solutions to forage growth during times of dry conditions. The absence of moisture will inevitably result in absence of forage growth. Adjusting stocking rates and using alternative feeding systems helps protect pastures and ensures animal requirements are being met. 

As much as it is tempting, overgrazing pastures in dry conditions is not worth the loss of production in subsequent grazing seasons. Leaving sufficient carry-over and allowing sufficient time for plants to recover may be the hardest but most critical grazing management decisions made during dry conditions.

For more information on pasture management, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 or call the Outlook Regional Office at 306-867-5500.

We need your feedback to improve Help us improve