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Does Grazing Winter Stockpile Slow Spring Regrowth?

By   /  December 8, 2014  /  7 Comments

It’s a good question and one that has come up as we follow Troy Bishopp through a fall and winter of custom grazing dairy heifers on stockpiled pasture. Fortunately, we’ve got answers!

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Photo of cool season, stockpiled grasses courtesy of ag.umass.edu The answer to how much future for
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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

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. Gary Howie says:

    Our winter stockpiled grasses frequently have a small amount of green at the bottom. That green would likely be best if not grazed, but it is exactly what the cows want. Uniform grazing seems to be a concept alien to most cows, at least on our pastures that are not predominantly Western Wheatgrass. With other grasses (e.g., Intermediate Wheatgrass), some of the grass will be grazed to the ground, other of the same grass will be left largely intact. Our objective is to increase the variety of plants in each pasture, but about half of our grazing is on land that was previously farmed and then replanted usually to two plant species, one of which is alfalfa. For winter stockpile the alfalfa is only stems, which means many of these pastures are essentially monocultures at this time.

  2. Bob Gillaspy says:

    The keys to success are monitoring (you need to know what to look for) and responding to the results.
    The quickest way to grow forage is to have green leaf blades when the weather is good for plant growth. Make it easier on the plant to grow by leaving a few leaf blades on each tiller.

  3. Stan Boltz says:

    This is an interesting question to me. We were taught in the old days that the roots were the grasses’ carbohydrate reserve, which they drew from in the spring to start growth. More recently, plant physiologists have determined that carbohydrates cannot be translocated from the roots to the above-ground plant. And in the spring, only 5-10% of new grass growth is fueled by carbohydrates in the sheaths and the upper root/plant crown at the surface of the ground – the other 90-95% of new grass growth comes from photosynthesis from the new leaves themselves. So protecting the root/plant crown and leaving some sheathes seems to be critical for initiating new plant growth in the spring.

    Another aspect is what effect does “trampling” have on grasses during the “dormant” period. I live in a fairly cold region, so after the first couple snowfalls, our snow cover tends to remain through the winter. I made an observation outside of my office last winter. There was a path in the snow that many people took on their way to their vehicles all winter long, and the snow got trampled and packed down on that path. Once the snow melted down to the ground level, people took other paths, because the exposed ground surface became muddy. What was the effect of that winter trampling on the lawn grass, Kentucky bluegrass? I have a picture of when the lawn started growing last spring, and you can easily see where the trampled snow path was.

    • mike says:

      Stan, Where’s the picture? What is the answer?

      • Stan Boltz says:

        I don’t know how to post a picture to this “blog”. I tried to just reply to Kathy’s original email and send the picture that way, but the email was rejected. I can send the picture if I have a valid email address to send to. Basically the grass was “dead” and brown on the path where people walked all winter, even though they stopped walking on it as soon as it got a little muddy. The grass on both sides of the path was growing and green.

        • Rachel Gilker says:

          Hi Stan,
          Perhaps you could post the picture to Facebook?
          Thanks,
          Rachel

        • Richard Sparks says:

          Snow cover has a very dramatic insulating effect on biennial and perennial plants. Compacted snow conducts heat much better; bare ground even more so. Kentucky bluegrass is very sensitive to winter kill when tillers get too cold over winter. “Winterkill” seems to be worse on Kentucky bluegrass, orchard grass, tall fescue, etc. in colder climates. Also, exposure to sunlight can dry the soil out in the spring before temperatures are warm enough to allow tiller growth. A sudden drop in cold temperatures can kill early tillers if they are exposed.

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