Cool, wet summer good for grazing livestock

News
Aug 14, 2009
by WLJ
Cool, wet summer good for grazing livestock

This year, Nebraska producers have had very good rain and cool temperatures so grasses are maturing a little more slowly than usual, said a University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) specialist. That’s good for grazing livestock.

Pasture grasses can be divided into cool-season or warm-season grasses, said Jerry Volesky, range and forage management specialist at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, NE. All of the state’s cool- season grasses are fully matured now. Smooth brome pastures, for example, are mature and the forage will be rank and unpalatable.

Quality will be quite low. Warm-season grasses, on the other hand, are in midto late-growth now and their nutritional quality is still quite high, Volesky said. Maintaining a balance of warm- and cool-season grasses in native pastures provides a high level of nutrition to grazing livestock across the seasons.

In the case of seeded pastures, producers can manage them and graze them appropriately depending on the type of pasture. Grazing cool-season pastures early, then rotating to warm-season pastures can make it more ideal for the grazing livestock.

Producers can use different grazing strategies to keep their pastures more vegetative and maintain higher quality, especially with the cool-season grasses like smooth brome. Managing the warm-season grasses in our native pastures can be a little bit more difficult.

Probably the better situation is to develop a rotational system where the animals will move to different pastures later in the season. Even though the warm-season grass may be mature, there’s still an abundance of leaf material, so the quality is still relatively good. So far, 2009 has proven to be a good season for growing nutritious forages. Making sure that cattle get plenty of leaf material will allow cattle to perform at their peak. — WLJ

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