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How Do You Graze When Your Pastures Are Saturated?

By   /  May 27, 2019  /  4 Comments

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This Florida cow is adjusting to grazing a flooded pasture. But not all pastures can survive this.

I got an email from a reader this past week asking just this question. Rain, rain, and more rain had soaked his soils. Not wanting to damage his pastures, he delayed turn out for a month, but his hay supplies are running out, and the pastures are maturing. He wondered what folks in the know would do.

I told him that I’d talked to Greg Judy, Matt Poore, and Johnny Rogers about this recently because other folks were having similar problems. Here’s what they suggested:

– Make your pastures larger than you normally would. This can spread animals out,  one pasture could be selected reducing the density of hoof impact. Then move them along to their next pasture pretty quickly.

– Sacrifice pastures may be another possibility, but think it through because that pasture would need plenty of rest to recover later.

– If you have areas that don’t hold water as well so they aren’t as soggy, focus on those areas first.

– One more option – head over to your local NRCS office to see if they have resources or can provide assistance. They are really working hard to help.

It doesn’t seem there’s a perfect solution, so I’m throwing the question out to all of you to see if you’ve got a practice that’s working well for you. My final suggestion – putting snow shoes on the cows to prevent pugging by spreading their weight over a larger area –  just didn’t seem very viable.
If you’ve got ideas or resources, please post them below.
Thanks for reading and for being part of a community of innovation!


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  • Published: 6 months ago on May 27, 2019
  • By:
  • Last Modified: October 28, 2019 @ 2:01 pm
  • Filed Under: NRCS, The Scoop

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.


  1. PAUL A. STROJAN says:

    When the pastures are wet is my favorite time of the year because it gives me an opportunity to manage my pastures that I don’t have the rest of the year. The ground is conductive and there is plenty of water around so I can use poly wire to fence cows out of areas that I can’t when things are dryer. The conventional advice is to give the cows as much space as you can but I prefer to concentrate the animal impact into as little space and time as possible. I want to give the cows just enough pasture that they uniformly graze their paddock before regrowth starts. In the winter that means, I want to move the cows off a paddock in less than a week.

  2. H Gilbert says:

    Stand off pad? Rock/ shingle base. Sawdust for future compost applications to pasture,Under trees for natural shelter? Short grazing period and roughage supplement (can mulch some trees (eg willow) to bulk up if running short of hay. Tor the very small farmer a mobile shelter (for our house cow etc we have deer gates (2.5m high) and windcloth for sides. Gate and polythene for roof. Sawdust base.

  3. Stuart Gardner says:

    Greg’s advice is ideal. It’s good time to rest pastures that are in lower positions on the landscape. Avoid grazing pastures with concave shaped surface areas, where water perches above the soil surface. If good grazing practices, leaving enough above ground plant, to grow and maintain, a dense, deep root system, have been in place for a long time, the impact will be minimal. Healthy soils with dense root systems and the desirable forage plants have unbelievable resilience! The little herd, below the soil surface, are heavily stressed by saturated soil conditions. Extend rest periods if possible, without allowing forages to become over mature. This is the 3rd wet summer in a row for us, down here in Louisiana. Good luck!

  4. Niels Corfield says:

    Here’s some experience from the UK.

    In summary the advice is to move animals more quickly than would be the case based on forage availability. So, ultimately leaving higher residuals.
    And shortening the grazing event duration.

    Cell will be heavily pugged but should recover rapidly.


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