Wait! A Test to See if Your Grasses Are Ready to Graze

Thanks for this article go to UNL Beefwatch and Bethany Johnston, Nebraska Extension Educator, Beef Systems, at University of Nebraska Lincoln. You can always find great grazing related information by checking out the UNL Beefwatch newsletter. The last year has been difficult to manage for pasture health and production. First, some rangelands are recovering from poor precipitation received during last year’s growing season. Now, cool weather this spring lowered the average soil temperature. While cool-season grasses break winter dormancy when the soil temperature is a few degrees above freezing, warm-season grasses prefer soil temperatures above 50 degrees F to break dormancy and begin growth. Both previous year drought and soil/air temperature affect how you should manage your pastures this growing season. “We always turn out on May 15th.” Have you heard that before? Does a calendar date decide when the plant is ready to be grazed? Maybe a producer should consider the “leaf stage” instead. The leaf stage of a plant can help a producer decide when the plant has enough leaf area to best tolerate grazing. What is “leaf stage”? A simple definition is the number of leaves on a plant’s tiller or stem. If you pluck a stem at ground level, you can physically count the leaves. Count mature leaves, or leaves that are collared- the leaf blade goes all the way around the stem, like a collar on a shirt. Now you try. Check out this picture and see if you c

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2 thoughts on “Wait! A Test to See if Your Grasses Are Ready to Graze

  1. It also depends on the class of livestock, i.e. growth animals or yearlings, or cows with or without calves. Growth animals need higher quality forage that comes from very young plants while cows can get by with taller, more mature plants. It also depends on the grazing management, i.e. MiG or rotation grazing or patch-burn grazing, also others. Agronomists have gotten so single-minded over MiG and cool-season grasses that they are literally brain-dead about any other grazing methods, forages and values.

  2. The animals decide . Last year they went out in April in Manitoba. This year there is hardly anything yet but they are out there. After nearly 8 months of winter they are so hungry for fresh green grass that they find ways to get it. Well they start in the yard. I did water a bit already . It is starting to be green just from the winter moisture. But we sure do need a good rain. Everything is so dusty And dry looking with a few patches of green spread throughout the pasture.

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