Avoid over-grazing pastures in the fall

November 2, 2008 06:00 PM

A South Dakota State University Extension range livestock management specialist reminds producers to allow re-growth periods before winter arrives in full.

"Pasture grasses like smooth bromegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, wheat grasses, and needlegrasses need the opportunity to rejuvenate their energy reserves and root systems this time of year," says South Dakota Cooperative Extension Range Livestock Management Specialist Eric Mousel. "Grazing off even a small part of re-growth before winter could cost producers next spring."

Cool-season grass species typically need at least two weeks time for re-growth before a killing freeze, which is defined as three consecutive nights where the temperature is below 20 degrees.

"The grasses need that time to synthesize carbohydrate reserves and translocate residual nitrogen to belowground organs for winter storage," says Mousel. "Management steps that interfere with this process will impact the plants, reducing the chances of winter survival and spring vigor."

Mousel recommends leaving four to six inches of green leaves on pasture grasses - about two to four weeks' growth - to ensure quality pasture in the spring.

"When warm weather returns, the grass will do much better and yield much higher," he says. "Leaving a little now will give you more next spring."

Mousel published his management tips in the October "South Dakota Rancher" publication. For more information on range and grazing topics, visit http://ars.sdstate.edu/, the Web site of the South Dakota State University Department of Animal and Range Sciences.

For questions or comments, e-mail the editors at Beef Today.


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