Grazing Height Determines the Health of Your Forages

As livestock producers, you know very well how forages will impact the growth or productivity of your animals. However, we very seldom think of how our livestock will impact the growth and productivity of our forages. Understanding the impact that grazing or cutting will have on the pasture is critical to achieving stand longevity, productivity, and quality. Plants capture their energy from the sun, much like a solar panel. They have specialized cells in the leaves called chlorophyll that are able to convert sunlight into carbohydrates. These carbohydrates do for the plant as they do for us- act as energy that support maintenance, growth of the leaves and roots, and produce seeds. After grazing or cutting, most of the “solar panel” or leaves of the plant have been removed. Without much leaf material, the plant is unable to create energy. Thankfully, plants store carbohydrates in their stems and root systems in case of leaf removal. The stored carbohydrates are metabolized and the energy is now available for creating new leaves. As these new leaves are being produced, sunlight can be captured again and the carbohydrate reserves will slowly be replenished. Assuming adequate nutrients and climate, this cycle will continue and plants will prosper- unless they are unable to replenish their carbohydrate reserves. In these cases, the leaf material is being removed from the plant before it has the opportunity to build up the carbohydrate stores. As a result, the energy is cons

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One thought on “Grazing Height Determines the Health of Your Forages

  1. Bulletin 911 “Bermudagrasses in Georgia” published by Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, makes a distinction between Tifton 85 and other Bermudagrasses. “When Tifton 85 is grazed, different management is needed. Tifton 85 will be more productive and carry more cattle when at least 4 inches of growth is maintained in the pasture.” My own experience in southeast Texas with mowing for hay, clipping, and grazing confirms this recommendation. I have seen plant death when clipped at or below 2 inches under moderately dry conditions.

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