Test Yourself – See if You Know When Your Grasses Are Ready to Graze

From May of 2018, 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. “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? 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. 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 can tell what leaf stage it's in. As you can see, this grass is in the two-leaf stage, almost to the three-leaf stage. (The middle leaf is immature and has not formed a collar quite yet.) Here's another one: If you said it's

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One thought on “Test Yourself – See if You Know When Your Grasses Are Ready to Graze

  1. Thank you for the useful photos. There is one other consideration besides the healthy of the grass: the health of the cows, and by this I mean their desire to kick up their heels and be free for a few hours. I used to have a gravelly field next to our house to use for free. As early at March 30, but usually mid-April things were firm enough and there was a little green showing. I’d let the cows out there for about an hour and they galloped, udders wildly swaying, heels in the air, and then settled down to find a blade or two of grass. No pugging, just fun for the animals. Grass is great, but so are cows.

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