Grazing to Grow Better Pasture

There's been a lot of attention paid to the potential negative impacts of grazing; however, grazing can be a powerful tool for improving pasture health and productivity. In fact, Aldo Leopold listed the ax, plow, cow, fire and seeding as potential renovation tools in the early 1900s. These tools have changed little over the years and are as effective today as in the early 20th century. Grazing diminishes the competitive ability of plants like broomsedge and johnsongrass and improves the competitiveness of bermudagrass, bahiagrass and even clovers. Improper grazing, on the other hand, can decrease the competitiveness of desirable species like orchardgrass or switchgrass and encourage undesirable weedy species. Why Does Grazing Alter What's In Your Pasture? Defoliation can be an effective herbicide and can be segregated into two types: non-selective and selective. An obvious example of non-selective defoliation is mowing or "bush hogging," since all plants are clipped to the same height. Taking advantage of animals'selective grazing greatly increases the effectiveness of defoliation by "mowing" only certain plants. Repeated removal of top growth of preferred "weeds" like johnsongrass can provide a more effective and selective control than mowing. A dramatic

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3 thoughts on “Grazing to Grow Better Pasture

  1. Any tips on managing Johnsongrass for its nutritive value vs. trying to eliminate it in the pastures. As it is part of a variety of forages, I haven’t worried about it. Should I be? I am in southwest Louisiana.

    1. Hi Anne,
      Johnsongrass is difficult to manage in pastures due to its requirements for long rest periods to maintain root energy stores. We don’t have much Johnsongrass in SC pastures and (perhaps unfortunately) we tend to fight it in bermudagrass hayfields. The Black Belt area of Alabama has about 400,000 acres of Johnsongrass in strict hay production, but I’m not aware of many acres being grazed because of its management requirements and sensitivity to overgrazing.

  2. Good basic information. It is the same strategy for most plants, and only needs to be adjusted for differing environments, from heavy precipitation to arid, from tall grasses to short grass species.

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