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To Mow or Not to Mow. That is the Question.

By   /  May 18, 2020  /  No Comments

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A reader sent a comment in asking for some advice on a topic that I’ve heard questions about in the past. I forwarded him to one of our grazing advisors, who shared an answer and then forwarded the question on to another grazing advisor. With thanks to Jason Linden, Troy Bishopp, and Greg Brann, here are thoughts on how to handle forage grazed to different heights.

Jason: We just moved to a farm in middle Tennessee that has been neglected for many years. I already have cattle on it and am rotating them daily. There is good forage in spots but bad in other. I’m trying to jump start regrowth of the good and knock out the bad, obviously everyone’s call when they start to restore pastures. I’m letting them take the good down to about 6 inches but the bad is standing 12 inches and the cattle don’t want it.

My questions:

Should I leave them longer so they eat down some of the bad?

Should I move them when they’ve eaten the good down the 6in or less?

Should I mow behind them to bring the bad down to 6 inches so the good gets better sunlight to regrow?

Troy Bishopp is a regular contributor to On Pasture. Every year he provides us with the updated grazing charts. You can check out his articles here.

I sent Jason to Troy Bishopp, the Grass Whisperer, because this is something Troy’s thought about a lot. Here’s Troy’s response:

My gut reaction to your quandary is you have the tools at your disposal. Not knowing your farm plan or grazing regime, I might suggest tightening up your paddocks so you get more efficient grazing, trampling and pooping but that would mean moving fences more times a day to get the impact you’re looking for. Try it on the weekend to see if it achieves what you want. I bet the native seedbank will respond. Mowing is another tool that might be a benefit and kind of a no brainer if your land to animal balance is not ideal. I treat this as a field by field problem and exert the “pressure” in one rotation as needed. 

Have fun, learn and linger.
Thanks  GW

Troy sent Jason’s questions to Greg Brann.

Greg Brann runs cattle, goats, and sheep on about 200 acres on his farm on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. To contact him visit him at his website.

I’m in agreement with everything presented by yourself and Troy. If you leave stock longer than 4 days and the desirable grasses get grazed below 3” you will need a longer recovery of that paddock. Mowing is a good reset but comes at a cost. As Troy mentioned high density short duration grazing will overcome most spot grazing.

And from Jason:

That is very helpful Troy and Greg. I’m currently running them through a new paddock everyday allowing them to back graze and get to water for 4 days. Then I move the water and start the 4 day cycle over. At least I’m doing something right! In this picture, red is where they were yesterday and blue is where I moved them to this AM. The stand of uneaten ‘grass’ is 8-12 inches. I’m trying to move them before they get the good stuff down to 4 inches.

Greg says, “It looks uniform enough in the picture I definitely would not mow.”

Victor Shelton has also chimed in on this topic. You can read his thoughts here:

To Clip/Mow Your Pasture Or Not – That is the Question

Do you have questions?

Maybe On Pasture can help. Drop us a note and we’ll see if we can find someone to help you with an answer.

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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.

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