Pasture Clipping Part 2

Editors Note:  We got a lot of interest in Troy's article "Pragmatic Pasture Clipping." Stuart Gardner wrote this in-depth response about his experience with pasture mowing. Mowing, bush-hogging, cutting, and clipping are all terms used to describe the mechanical process of harvesting or cutting of pasture vegetation. Strategic mowing (followed by an adequate rest period) is a great management tool, if timed properly! It is an important tool for a sustainable grazing pasture based operation. It can, somewhat, replace use of intensive (35,000 lbs./acre stock density) or mob grazing(80,000 lbs./acre) to uniformly harvest plant material. Of course, without the benefits of pulling (grazing) action, hoof (trampling) action, and uniform distribution of manure and urine from the livestock. Many grazers don't have the enthusiasm, desire, time and skills to implement effective intensive and mob grazing methods. Mowing on rangeland is entirely, another topic! STRATEGIC is the key descriptive word in use of this management tool. The timing is key! Typically the ideal time is during the peak period of the growing season, which is June 15 to September 15, for my area. Most typically, mow the grazed pasture after every other grazing period, then let it rest! The key is to do it immediately after grazing. I always want to see fresh manure on the

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7 thoughts on “Pasture Clipping Part 2

  1. G’day Stuart,Your reply held the most important detail in that it explained the need to leave the “right ” height of stubble for good recovery of the pasture.
    Down here we are in what is the Temperate zone (on the eastern side just inland from the coastal zone) with 4 distinct seasons and winters down to -8 c with the occasional snow fall,summers are up to 40 c and can be quite dry for 2 months or so.We have one Native sp (Poa labillaedieri)which creates quite dense thickets with a lot of thatch(good cover ,but can restrict other grasses).Two years ago I “cool burnt”about 10 acs of dense thickets and this spring after good late winter rain the volume of other sp is producing good sheep feed. The Poa’s have recovered over the last 2 springs to be quite healthy ,the stock only graze the freshest of young tips after burning and the flower/seed heads.But its the cover it provides for lambing ewes that I value it for.Frank.

  2. G’day,Down here in Aussie our system is based on perennial pasture species and the idea of slashing/clipping growth exposes the dormant crowns to heat for cool sp and frost to warm sp.When you clip to a lower height you expose the stock to the ideal conditions for re- infection of internal parasites. Leaving the pasture to its own devices means that annual sp have the chance to grow ,flower and seed and thereby add to the pasture diversity . Frank.

    1. Frank,
      Our pasture system here is based on perennial warm season forages and annual cool season forages. The article was focused on the summer grazing period and on pastures with perennial warm season forages. Clipping is never implemented with the cool season annuals. The period stated in the article is during the peak of our growing season, June 15 – September 15, in the deep southern USA. Our first hard freeze here, historically occurs in mid or late December and the last freeze usually occurs in early March. Ninety percent of our nights reach dewpoint, there is a heavy dew just about ever morning here. It’s a great environment for parasites and plant diseases. Our climate is considered to be humid subtropical.

      Most parasites in the larval stage do not climb up more than 2 inches on a blade of grass or other forage plant. They must be ingested by the host animal to perpetuate the life cycle of the parasite. The focus is to maintain a 3-6 inch sod and graze the regrowth above that height. Properly implemented grazing systems severely reduce parasite issues. Some of the native perennial grasses like Eastern Gama Grass and Switchgrass, require that we leave a stubble of 8-10 inches and allow for rest periods of 30-45 days. The native perennial grasses are much more sensitive to exposure and damage to the growing points or crowns, by overgrazing or mowing. When hay is made using these species it is cut at an 8-10 inch height and usually during the peak growing season.

      Clipping or slashing is only one of the many tools that can be used to manage pastures. It has to be used strategically. It does not necessarily have a negative effect on diversity. Most weeds or forbs are readily grazed by the livestock, especially when in the vegetative stage of growth, prior to flowering and before setting seed. Clipping can be used to manage the stage of maturity and quality of the plants in the pasture. That includes the weeds or forbs. The timing of grazing is critical to achieve success. There must be adequate quality and quantity for the type of livestock being grazed or browsed. Clipping can be part of a dynamic rest based rotational grazing system that requires lots of thought and the appropriate actions.

      Take Care,
      Stuart

  3. Excellent article! I’m wondering if implementing a variation of this would work in our drought prone area – TEXAS.

    1. Don,
      The principles remain the same in a drought situation for pastureland. The grazing and/browsing by livestock will have to be stopped. The grazing can resume when the desirable forages reach an adequate height. They should then be grazed down only to an acceptable height. Then allowed to recover, whatever time it takes. Livestock should be removed from the majority of pastures, desirable forages cannot recover or react to moisture, whenever it is eventually received, if the desirable plants are overgrazed. Clipping without the rest from grazing is much less effective. Just clipping with livestock present will knock back the remaining undesirable plants, because it will have been harvested, and the clipping can put some cover or litter down on the ground to provide some protection to the soil. Soil that is covered with litter or dead vegetation will be protected from direct sunlight. The protected soil will have a much cooler temperature in the heat and warmer temperature in the cold. Infiltration of the rain is also drastically increased when litter is present on the soil surface.

  4. Can strategic mowing be a good addition to your pastor management?

    Mowing may help, but–in my experience–“clipping a pastor’s wings” too severely may discourage his/efforts in tending the sheep.

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