Please Keep Off the Grass: Post-Drought Grazing Management

For many livestock producers it has been a difficult year requiring significant amounts of extra feed. Now it is the beginning of May and things are greening up nicely. Here in New Hampshire we have gotten a good amount of moisture so our drought conditions are easing and disappearing. I know many producers who are very anxious to get their animals out into their pastures so they can stop feeding as much hay. I am writing to point out that this year more than others it is important to wait until your forages are truly ready. If you don’t wait, you will significantly reduce the overall forage production from your pastures over the course of this grazing season and possibly future grazing seasons as well. The grasses in our pastures are especially vulnerable this year, because last summer was so hard on them. The drought was stressful enough for the plants, but many people opened up their pastures in an effort to get some production off their drought stunted pasture which further stressed the grasses. This was an understandable effort to reduce the amount of feed that needed to be fed last summer. Unfortunately opening up the pastures is harmful to forages and they will be weaker this year because of it. The good thing is you have a chance to help your grasses recover now by waiting! Perennial grasses run on momentum in the form of stored energy, vegetation and root production. If they are not allowed to build up that momentum, then they will fade and be out competed by

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