Pasture Management

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Good pasture management leads to better weed control, better soil structure, increased productivity over longer periods of time, and healthier animals. It helps the soil absorb excess water, manure, nutrients and other pollutants and protects local water quality by reducing the amount and improving the quality of runoff.

Maintenance

Pastures can be grazed intensively during peak periods of growth, but they need regular attention. They require regular rest and regrowth periods for root systems to recover and absorb nutrients.

Overgrazing

Pasturing too many animals on a parcel of land, or allowing them to graze for too long in the same area reduces plant vigor and compacts soils, reducing absorption capacity and pasture recovery. Overgrazing is the main reason for pasture decline.

Pasture Rotation

Rest periods are critical to proper pasture growth. A grazing rotation that allows 21 to 28 days of regrowth between grazing periods is usually best. Divide pasture area into separate units (paddocks) if possible.

Remember that the smaller the area, the greater the chance of plant destruction, even when supplemental hay is given. Rotation will depend on the season, weather conditions, the specific crop, soil, water retention, the number of paddocks available, and the type of animals. 

Four or more equal-sized paddocks are recommended for starting a rotational grazing system.

NOTE: Horses are especially hard on pastures. They graze plants down to the soil surface, so regrowth takes more time. They do not graze evenly and trample much of the forage area. If you have horses, or even one horse, your pasture anagement plans should include controlled grazing and rotation.

Pasture Renovation

Certain forage plants such as tall fescue and orchard grass will take two years to produce at their maximum rate, but once established, they can continue to produce for at least 10 years. Heavily grazed pastures of forage such as ryegrass will need reseeding every two or three years for top production.

Ideal pasture renovation means plowing and growing an alternate crop such as corn, oats or annual ryegrass before tilling and reseeding with forage crops. If this is not possible, disking and reseeding will help.

Animals must be kept off new seeding until it is well established.

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