Did Your Wet Pasture Get Mucked Up? Don’t Worry!

Occasionally we can experience what looks like some pretty substantial pasture damage with high high stock density grazing in wet conditions, but first looks aren't always what they appear to be. Each picture tells a little bit about the results. Here is the scenario, the pivot passed over this paddock in the night just before the cattle were put on the morning of July 27. On July 27 it rained 1.15" which is well over our usual total for the month (.86"). There are 943 beef animals in the herd including 388 cows, 376 calves, and 178 bred heifers. they are on 6 acres. That puts the stock density at about 120,000 lbs liveweight/acre on a 24-hour move.  In the picture below I had just moved the herd off the paddock in the center. You can see the combined effect of 3/4" of water from pivot overnight and 1.15" of rain through the day. Note where the peaks are situated in the background for future reference. This picture gives an idea of the spatial density of the cattle. Here's another shot. The field almost looks like it was disked! That is the impact of 120,000 lbs/acre stock density on a wet pasture. Below you can see what it looked like just a couple hours later after the sun had shone on the ground a little bit. It does look like a tilled field. One side note here, there were thousands of dead voles on this paddock and the ravens & magpies had a picnic. Two weeks later and the trampled paddock is already recovering. Remember this is the sa

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6 thoughts on “Did Your Wet Pasture Get Mucked Up? Don’t Worry!

    1. Jim, this is classified as Pahsimeroi gravelly loam. The response on a heavy clay soil would likely be different. When we were in MO, we had experiences similar to this on silty clay loam and silt loam soils. The negative results were only slightly longer lasting if we moved the cattle to a new paddock immediately following the pugging event. If cattle were left for several days on the same ground, the the negative effect could last a couple of years. It isn’t the first hoof that hits the wet ground that does the damage. It is the 20th, the 50th, the 100th….

  1. Jim.

    How mature is the forage stand? What I think that I’ve seen is mature stands with good root mass recover well while new seedings haven’t rebuild soil structure and put down enough roots to prevent damage.

    Great job of taking pictures, worth more than a thousand words.

    1. This was seeded before we came to the ranch. It is my understanding it was seeded to orchardgrass, meadow brome, and alfalfa in 1997. We added red, white, & alsike clover in 2006. All other grasses are volunteer.

  2. Jim,

    Even though you did not realize a difference in production between impact levels that grazing season, I would be really interested to see over the next couple years if that one paddock out performs or under performs the other paddocks. And then to couple that, what would be the optimal interval for “hoof-tilling” a paddock for best returns if production increases over time.

    Will be a very interesting experiment to watch over time!

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