Time Grazing to Increase Warm Season Grasses

Fifteen years after they'd planted a pasture of big bluestem (Andopogon gerardii), Brad and Leslea Hodgson of Root Prairie Galloways noticed that it was beginning to be overtaken by cool season grasses and weedy forbs. They had an idea that grazing the cool season plants early in the spring, before the big bluestem broke dormancy, would set the cool season plants back, and give the big bluestem the advantage it needed to begin increasing again. They tested their theory over three grazing seasons with help from grazing consultant Howard Moechnig, and a grant from North Central SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education). What they found is that they could give big bluestem the boost it needed. The Hodgsons subdivided the big bluestem pasture, leaving one paddock grazed so they would have a comparison for their grazing results. Cattle grazed from late April through early May starting at a stocking density of about 50,000 pounds per acre in the first year and up to 181,000 pounds per acre in year two. Paddocks measured from 50' x 100' to 60' x 100'. Average time in a paddock was 10 to 12 hours, though this varied depending on forage availability. In the early spring these paddocks were mostly Kentucky blue grass and Canada goldenrod with some wild parsnip, asters, aspen saplings, Canada thistle, clovers, dandelion and crown vetch thrown in. At first glance it didn't look like the pasture had a lot of forage: [caption id="attachment_25673" align="aligncenter

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