What Two Grasses Tell Us About Grazing Management

How is grass productivity above and below ground affected by grazing at different heights or by leaving different residuals after grazing? A study at UW-Madison found no simple answer to this question. Productivity of pasture grasses varies across grazing management strategies and species. The Study Nadia Alber with the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies experimented with grazing management of different cool season grass species at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center farm near Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. She grazed 1,000 pound Holstein heifers on paddocks where half were seeded with 'Bartura' meadow fescue, and half with 'Bronc' orchardgrass. Grazing began when the grass was either 12 inches tall or 24 inches tall and continued from April to October in 2009 and 2010. The heifers grazed off either 50% or down to 1.5 inches of stubble (100%). Alber measured above- and below-ground production using a rising plate meter and root cores. What Happened There's a lot of information packed into the two graphs below showing what happened to above- and below-ground production for the two different grasses in 2009 and 2010. First, you can see that production was affected by rainfall. Production was much lower in 2009, with 26.5 inches of rainfall than in 2010 when there was 40 inches of rainfall. The exception was that in the drier year (2009) meadow fe

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One thought on “What Two Grasses Tell Us About Grazing Management

  1. Regionalized, specific species of grasses will perform differently in different pastures, different years, different grazing heights, different animals and on and on…

    Way too many variables to project anything but ambiguous results.

    At the UM-Columbia Forage Research Center in Linneus, MO, variables are worked down in the same field with standard beef and/or dairy cattle and findings are converted into usable data, often with a control of “do nothing”.

    This gives the seller/supplier a true test on performance enhancement.

    Personally, I like to let the cool season grasses express themselves and keep a diverse balance of ladino, alsike and red clover mixed in. Fescue, orchard grass and timothy volunteer until summer dormancy and rotational intensive grazing makes the animals consume all without getting used to their selective ruminant tendencies.

    A good article on specific plants but, monocultures in grazing, other than cereal grasses, seed stocks or annuals are rare today in Missouri.


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