How Grass Grows Tells You How You Should Graze It

If you missed Part 1, here it is. There are three important factors that affect how grasses respond to grazing: 1) frequency, 2) intensity and 3) season. Range ecologists and physiologists have found that as grazing increases, grass productivity typically declines. Frequency can be more important than intensity. A plant that is harvested often has more photosynthetic tissue removed and little opportunity for regrowth. These plants may enter a period when soil moisture, temperature and growth stage limit regrowth and little leaf area remains for photosynthesis. Thus, their ability to replenish reserves or produce additional new tillers is restricted. If a plant experiences several defoliations, reserve levels and forage production might decline further. A plant that is grazed intensely during early spring and given a deferment during the remainder of the growing season may produce additional growth and be more vigorous than a plant that receives less intense defoliations throughout the growing season. Seasonal Impacts Grasses can produce large amounts of nutritious leaf growth during spring months. Leaves continue to age and die; therefore, a portion of the leaves can be harvested through livestock grazing with little effect on the plant. However, enough photosynthetic material must remain for production of carbohydrates to meet growth and respiration demands of the plant. If grazing removes too much leaf material, growth rate is slowed materially, and additional re

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