Is It Ready Yet? How to Know When You Can Start Grazing a New Planting

Last year about this time, an On Pasture reader asked us when he could start grazing a planting he's was getting ready for fall forage. We figured there'd be more of you out there this summer with the same question. So here you go! Timing to start grazing varies for each species and mix, as well as whether or not you plan to get regrowth out of the crop, what animal species you are grazing, and what your grazing system looks like. In general, you want to maximize the yield of this first grazing, without sacrificing quality and regrowth potential, but the exact balance of quality and yield will depend on your operation. Quality When managing for maximum yield at a high forage quality level, manage for the species that will lose quality the fastest as the mix matures. For many grass-legume mixes, this is the grass. For example, it's the oats in a pea-oat mix, or the sorghum-sudan and millet in our Ray’s Crazy Summer Mix. As grasses get taller and begin to head out, the stem increases in lignin content, while fiber digestibility and protein take a nosedive. So the best approach is to look for the stage at which the primary grass in the mix is normally ready to graze. That's flag leaf to boot stage for many grasses and small grains, and about waist high for warm season grasses like sorghum-sudan and millet. For cool season perennial grasses and tall growing legumes (alfalfa, alsik

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