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Rest is Not a 4-Letter Word – Timing for Pasture Recovery – Part 1

By   /  June 18, 2018  /  No Comments

Well – technically it is a 4-letter word, but we shouldn’t use it like it is one. Here, Dave Pratt talks about why it is one of the most important words in a grazier’s vocabulary if you want to build capacity on your farm or ranch.

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The biggest mistake people make in grazing management is providing too short a recovery period for plants after grazing. Of course too much rest isn’t good either. In drier environments excluding animals from a pasture long after it has recovered will lead to reduced productivity, dead grass and bare soil. In wetter environments it can lead to brush encroachment.

The basic rule is: When growth is slow, we should use long recovery periods. When growth is faster, recovery periods should be shorter. This invites several questions, including: “How long is long enough?” “How long is too long?” and “How short is too short?” The only responsible answer to each of these questions is, “It depends.”

It depends on the time of year, the type of plants we have, and on our goals – like stockpiling or other management objectives.

The Rule of Thumb:

Slow Growth = Longer Rest Periods

Fast Growth = Shorter Rest Periods

It also depends on how severely the pasture was used the last time it was grazed. The more severely it was used, the longer it will take to recover. In this 3:47 video, let’s look at what happens to the amount of rest a pasture needs when it gets grazed more severely.

Leave More Leaves

Severe grazing isn’t necessarily bad provided you give plants a lot of time to recover, and they will need a lot of time to recover, at least in comparison to plants that weren’t severely grazed.

Healthy roots are what give plants the strength they need to break dormancy in the spring. After that, the speed of regrowth depends on leaf area available for photosynthesis. The growth curve also changes through the growing season, with a steeper curve in the spring, and a shallower curve in late summer. Here we see how much rest plants need to recover after grazing them.

If we graze another 25% further down, does that add another 25% to the recover period? As you can see, the answer is no. The recovery period actually increases by 50% or maybe even 75%.

 

In general, the more leaves we leave, the faster a pasture will recover.

Focus on Building Capacity, Not Utilization

Where we get into trouble is when we look at utilization. We might look at our pastures, see that they’re grazed down, and that we’ve gotten efficient utilization. But efficient utilization is not nearly as important as building capacity. Profit minded ranchers know that to build capacity they need to graze less severely and leave more leaves.

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Stay tuned for next week when Dave talks about how the growing season affects recovery rates, and what we can do to adapt our management plan based on what we see happening. (Hey, do you have a grazing management plan? It’s never too late to start. Here’s where you can get your free grazing chart along with all the articles Troy Bishopp wrote on how to use yours to be more successful AND have a life too!)

Do you appreciate Dave’s teaching style? Then check out his book and DVD for lots more great information and profit tips. Dave also runs “Ranching for Profit” schools, a week that will change how you look at your operation and what you can do to increase profit, improve the health of the land, improve the relationships in your business and increase your satisfaction with your ranch.

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About the author

Dave Pratt is one of the most sought after speakers and respected authorities on sustainable ranching in North America. He’s earned a reputation for innovative teaching with a practical edge and has helped hundreds of farmers and ranchers develop and implement strategies to improve their land, strengthen their relationships and increase profit. His programs, which include the Ranching For Profit School and Executive Link, have benefited thousands of families and millions of acres. Dave’s new book, Healthy Land Happy Families and Profitable Businesses has received high acclaim from industry leaders. Joel Salatin said, “This book delivers more meaningful advice in one small space than I’ve ever seen.” Wayne Fahsholtz, former President and CEO of Padlock Ranch advised, “If you are serious about wanting your ranch to be successful / sustainable, than this is an important read.” Stan Parsons called it, “…the best book ever written about ranching anywhere.”

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