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Is It Time To Let The Cows Out?

By   /  April 30, 2013  /  7 Comments

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It’s the time of year when we’re all chomping at the bit to head out to green pasture.  We can see the grass coming up, we’re tired of feeding hay and our stock is tired of eating it.  We know that hitting our pastures too soon could come back to bite us later and might mean more hay feeding next year. Every spring it’s the same struggle – to graze or not to graze!

Jason Rowntree of Michigan State University can help you in just 3 short minutes.  In this video, he shows you how he uses his trusty grazing stick to tell him whether he can put his animals on pasture.  It’s so easy, you’ll want to do it too!

If you don’t have a grazing stick already, here’s a link to places you can find one!   Remember that different areas require different measurement sticks.

We’ll cover more ways to use a grazing stick in future issues.

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About the author

editor and contributor

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

7 Comments

  1. Bill Elkins says:

    To revisit- the problem remains how to measure biodiverse pasture., that is diverse populations of different species of grasses and forbs. I’ll be greatly pleased if Jason can demonstrate the use of a measuring stick , as he has promised in the U-tube above.

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Bill!

      Maybe you could add how you decide when a biodiverse pasture is ready to graze.

      Personally, I see nothing wrong with his idea that you can measure with a stick and get at least some idea of whether you are going to harm your pasture. It’s the grasses that have the most to lose, given their growth form. So, if you prefer your grasses, then you can say, well, I’m not going to let my cows out now.

      OR, you can say, Holy Cow! The weeds are coming up right now, and if I don’t get my cows out here to graze them early, they’re going to shade out my grasses, and I’ll hit them quickly, and get them out in no time so my grasses can grow happily.

      Jason made this video about a year ago, and we’re using it here because it still has useful information. If you’d like to contact him directly to ask him some questions, drop me an email at kathy@onpasture.com and I’ll send you his contact info for further discussion.

      Hope that helps!

      Kathy 🙂

  2. Bill Elkins says:

    WHAT JASON SAYS HERE IS FINE, IF YOU HAVE A UNIFORM FORAGE COMPOSITION AS IT APPEARS HE MAY HAVE(probably from an intentional seeding into carefully prepared soil) AND I AGREE THAT HIS PASTURE IS NOT READY TO GRAZE IF HE WANTS ROOTS TO BE THERE LATER ON,
    BUT WE HAVE A VERY DIVERSE SWARD OF VOLUNTEER COOL SEASON GRASSES AND FORBS. AS OF NOW (MID APRIL-MAY 2013, WE HAVE ORCHARD GRASS BUNCHES OVER 10″ AND IN BOOT-SEED STAGE ALONG WITH A MAJOR COMPONENT OF 1-8″ BLADES OF UNKNOWN (i.e. UNIDENTIFIABLE) GRASS SPECIES COMING IN ALONG WITH DIVERSE SPRING FORBS. ALL OF THIS IN 4TH YEAR OF ROTATIONAL GRAZING ( OUR HOLISTIC VERSION OF GREG JUDY’S PROGRAM, WHICH WAS PRECEEDED BY DECADES OF SET-STOCK GRAZING). BECAUSE WE WANT BIODIVERSITY WE DO NOT BEMOAN OUR PRESENT CONDITION, BUT IT BECOMES A HOLISTIC ARTSY GUESS TO DECIDE WHEN AND WHERE TO GRAZE. THE SMALL YOUNG SHOOTS MAY BE SOME “POVERTY GRASS” , AND THUS NOT WORTH WAITING FOR. BUT THEY MAY ALSO GIVE RISE TO A MUCH DESIRED PRODUCTIVE AND DIVERSE FORAGE BASE, SO I TRY TO FAVOR IT.
    LAST YEAR WE GOT ALOT OF VOLUNTEER RHIZOBIAL SMOOTH BROME FOR FIRST TIME EVER, AND IT IS IS SO POPULAR IT GETS GRAZED TO GROUND BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE GETS TOP GRAZED. AH SWEET MYSTERY OF LIFE, I’ve FOUND THHE!”, or something like that.

    • Bill Elkins says:

      May I reply to myself? one week later than the above ? All those little shoots suddenly bloomed to the great pleasure of my cows, and their spring shits disappeared! That’s energy plus, I do believe.
      Now I can identify the grass as “sweet vernal” or “vanilla grass”, a poverty grass generally unpopular with farmers as quite unproductive for rest of year. So for my cows it’s a short-lived binge ,and I lucked out getting it grazed right now. What next?

  3. Holly Gowdy says:

    Hard to hear, but glad to have confirmation that keeping cows off of pastures in the early season is a better management decision… here in New England we could sure use some rain!

  4. charlie taplin says:

    Too much background noise (wind ?) couldn’t understand most of it.

    • Rachel Gilker says:

      Hi Charlie,
      Sorry about that. We liked his message, and were willing to put up with the wind. We’ll try to get some better sound quality on future videos. Hope the sun is shining in your neck of the woods.
      Rachel

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