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UH-OH! I’m running out of grass! What should I do?

By   /  June 30, 2014  /  2 Comments

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First off, let’s not panic.  You have options for stretching your forage supply.  One or a
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About the author

Greg has a BS degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of TN, Knoxville with special emphasis on animal science and landscape design. He worked as the State Grazing Land Soil Health Specialist for 23 of his 40-year tenure with NRCS. With more than 40 years of land and pasture management, Greg has had the privilege of watching his plans transform land under the great care of land managers. More than 200,000 acres have been transformed by his attentive planning. Greg is a featured speaker at many conferences and grazing schools around the country. His private consulting practice, Synergistic Grazing Management, provides land management planning to farmers, ranchers, land preservation organizations, and public land managers. He has developed land management plans as varied as the 100,000 acres at Fort Campbell Military Base to diversified farms of 25 acres. Looking past symptoms to discover and resolve root issues, his plans provide practical ideas to help you reach your goals. Greg hosts an annual “Pasture Walk” that brings together farmers, researchers, and ag and environmental specialists to maintain a space for difficult discussions and friendly conversations around synergistic land management. His deep understanding of plant communities as indicators of land productivity has made him a stead resource for land owners and managers passionate to understand nature’s ability to regenerate land.


  1. Brian A. Kaczor says:

    I live in Nebraska, therefore our droughts are a lot drier than they are in Tennessee.
    The advice to use nitrogen fertilizer does not sound wise on many counts.

    My neighbor used fertilizer on his meadow and because of the drought, it just burned it up and he did not have any to put up. Nitrogen can burn the roots when there isn’t enough moisture to utilize it properly.

    Next we run into the issue of nitrate accumulation in the forage. This can be deadly to your livestock. If you use nitrogen fertilizer and there isn’t enough moisture to properly utilize it, the nitrate will accumulate in the lower parts of the plants to cause serious problems to livestock eating it.

    Nitrogen fertilizer increases tonnage, but not necessary feed. If only nitrogen is used, many of the amino acids will be deficient even though the test for crude protein will show good protein levels. The problem is that crude protein is only a multiplier of the nitrogen in the forage and not the balance of actual amino acids. Proteins are only as good as to the availability of the deficient amino acid. Amino acids that cannot be used needs to be broken down and voided using up energy that could be used for other purposes ( the no carb diet).

    The best part of the forage is usually the top 6 inches. The extra growth you get will be fiber bulk. Yes, you have more tonnage to sell, but not necessary anymore feed for gain and health.

    Even though here in Nebraska we have a lower annual precipitation, I have noticed the difference between wet years and dry years. The cattle perform better in the dry years since the nutrient density is greater. It is hard to maintain high nutrient density in forage when there is an abundance of moisture and not the fertility to go with it. The plants with plenty of moisture will reuse the nutrients that it can, by removing them from the older parts of the plant. This causes us to have more tonnage, but no more nutrients than when we started. When you use extra nitrogen fertilizer and the plants grows more, any other nutrient that is deficient will also be reused in the plant. Once again, extra growth, but not extra nutrients.

    Proper rotation and rest is the best defense against drought. Building deep roots helps reach more moisture and more nutrients. Build up of organic matter increases water infiltration and water holding capacity of the soil. More organic matter increases nutrient capacity and bio activity that releases bond nutrients and makes them available to plants. Some of this is covered in The $200 Cover Crop Bump. http://onpasture.com/2014/06/30/the-200-cover-crop-bump/

    “Now, when he takes soil tests, he finds the organic matter in the soil has increased from less than 2% into the 3% range and climbing. He’s also seeing phosphorus and potassium (P and K) going up, without having added any himself. “

  2. Dr Larry Milham says:

    I have 8 – 1200 pound round bales remaining from my winter feed and feed it while allowing the stock to also graze in a 1/4 size pasture allowing for regrowth of grasses.
    Those 8 bales should last around two months and by then I should have enough grass to cover the remaining summer season here in Northwestern Montana to keep my grass growing for the next graze.

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