When to Rest a Pasture from Grazing

I was recently involved in a discussion about when to rest a pasture after completing a brush management practice. The first response was to rest the pasture for the entire growing season. That resulted in another question. Which growing season? This caused a bit of confusion among the group, as most considered the growing season to be from spring green-up to fall when growth of warm season grasses ceases. (Good for warm season plants, but what about the cool season ones.)

 

If you are fortunate to ranch in an area where the climate permits cool and warm season grass growth, deferment from grazing during that cool season growth period may be as important as rest during the warm season.  If the grazing manager hopes to build a program that does not require feeding of the livestock anything other than the forage that is raised on the rangeland, warm and cool season plants must be as vigorous as possible. (No cake-no hay-no tubs-no blocks) Some consider this an impossible task without severe reduction in animal performance. This is incorrect as ranching operations from several regions of the nation have accomplished it. Including West Central Texas.

 

The next issue raised during the conversation was: Is rest for one season enough after brush management or should it be a continuing rest. Ranchmen have been fighting brush for decades and it continues to be an issue even on lands that have received extensive treatment in the past. OK, next question. Why can’t we get ahead? The obvious answer is: We have not addressed the reason or cause of the brush problem. That cause is grazing practices that do not encourage strong-vigorous-dense cover of rangeland perennial grasses and forbs. Last question. How is that accomplished? A grazing program that is continually ongoing, rotating rest from grazing seasonally in all pastures.

 

Observing cattle graze can be less than exciting, that is until one observes what they are grazing. This two-year-old first calf heifer seems to be enjoying some of that much maligned KR Bluestem. With properly applied-effective grazing program the KR goes ‘vertical’ and provides some very good forage for cattle, which during rapid growth the cattle obviously enjoy grazing.

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Rangelands and Ranching: A Study of Proper Use of Rangelands & the Environment by Frank S Price

My son and I ranch a cow-calf, wooled sheep and hair sheep operation in West Central Texas. We operate 7 different grazing units and utilize a single herd, traditional pasture grazing program within all these units. My son represents is the 5th generation of this enterprise that was started in 1876 by my great grandfather. He and his brother began by driving a herd of cattle from Ennis Texas to Santa Anna Texas, ultimately driving the herd of cattle they had built to Kansas markets and returned to Sterling County, to begin a permanent ranching operation. Rainfall within our scattered operations runs from 17” to 20”. The winters, while going into the single digits on occasion are relatively mild compared to ranches further north, resulting in mostly mild winters producing usable cool season growth along with the dominant warm season plants.

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