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Managing to Keep Up With the Grass

By   /  June 8, 2015  /  5 Comments

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For many of us this spring, we’ve had typical weather: unpredictable. Forage growth and qual
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About the author

For more than 25 years, Victor Shelton, Indiana agronomist and grazing specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has provided advice about grazing’s best practices. He travels across the state conducting pasture walks, working one on one with farmers and participating in grazing talks. He also writes a newsletter called "Grazing Bites" as a way to talk about current and seasonal grazing issues and what farmers need to be prepared for.

5 Comments

  1. Kevin Roberts says:

    This is a great article. I really struggle with getting my timing correct for the season.
    Reading this article helps keep me motivated and on the right path.
    On the subject of summer annual,does anyone have any experience planting summer annuals into existing sod pastures? Without killing the existing pasture? I was thinking of grazing hard to weaken some fescue, then no-tilling sudan or similar type annual.

    • Rachel Gilker says:

      Hi Kevin,

      We’re glad you liked the article. Here’s a bit of information on some summer annuals you might be considering:
      Adding Summer Annuals to Your Pasture
      Drought Concerns: Milo Forage Sorghum Alternatives
      Thanks for reading!
      Rachel

    • Victor Shelton says:

      Kevin, I know what you are wanting to do and it is possible, but pretty precarious. I’ve had some luck doing this with sudan grass and cow peas immediately after high density short duration grazing under drying conditions that created a very slight and short “dormancy” period (and that is not a true dormancy) which provided just enough time for the drilled sudan and or cow peas to emerge and start growing before the existing forage starts to regrow. If there is adequate moisture, the existing forage will usually out compete the seedlings. I can tell you I’ve wasted a lot of seed experimenting! Annuals just do better with no competition and most will be a total failure if competition is not controlled.

    • Josh Vaillancourt says:

      I’ve been wanting to try no-till seeding into sod as well, but as Victor points out, it can be an expensive trial. My thought was to not only graze hard and early in the season, but re-graze quickly (and hard again), after the plants have called on their carbohydrate reserves but not replenished them. If the existing sod is struggling to come back a third time, maybe those summer annuals stand a fighting chance.

      • Victor Shelton says:

        Josh, I’m not sure that is what you really want to do. First of all, I wouldn’t want to restrict intake on the cows that much. Unless done for an extended period and starting very early, you will probably have a patchwork of forage heights as they select for quality. If the forages have been in good health and moisture is present, the remaining roots will respond to rebuild that solar panel as quickly as possible for survival and you raise the risk of increased compaction and weeds. By laying down more mature, higher carbon plant material in a high density short duration type grazing method, the cattle will eat the best and laydown most of the rest, creating a nice mulch. Forages in this stage generally take a little longer to respond creating a tiny window. Too much moisture, won’t work. Too dry, won’t work. It is usually just to risky, but if I saw that the present conditions were promising, then I might jump.

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