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Rules of Thumb for Grazing Management
by Keith Harmoney, Range Scientist, Hays
Over the years, I’ve heard rangeland managers develop rules of thumb, or short phrases, to try to help them simplify decisions that need to be made to manage their pastures. Some of these rules of thumb have merit and scientific or economic data to support the rules of thumb; however, some rules of thumb may be unfounded and lack informational support. Thumbs Up means it’s a rule of thumb with merit, and a Thumbs Down indicates the rule of thumb lacks support and has room for improvement. A Thumbs Up and a Thumbs Down means that arguments may be made for and against the rule of thumb.
Rotational Grazing is Better than Continuous Grazing. Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down.
Rotational stocking systems are not automatically better than continuous stocking systems. A stocking system still has to be managed properly to be successful and sustainable. A rotational system that overutilizes forage growth and does not balance the seasonal forage removed with the seasonal forage available is still overgrazed regardless of the rotational system being used. Likewise, a continuous stocking system that doesn’t balance forage produced with forage removed and utilizes more than half the forage growth will be overgrazed. The majority of grazing research studies show that animal production and pasture vegetation production are actually quite similar when continuous and rotational systems are grazed at the same stocking rate. For pastures that have a history of overuse, both systems can be used to help with pasture improvement. Three main strategies will help to increase pasture production and shift pasture vegetation to more desirable species over time. First, data shows that significantly lowering stocking rate will increase pasture yield and will improve pasture plant composition, even with continuous stocking. Second, providing a rest period during the growing season allows vegetation to accumulate more leaf material and dry matter and allows plants to replenish their carbohydrate status. Providing a rest period during the growing season is the only way to ensure that all plants will have a period in the growing season without any leaf material being removed. And, third, implement a combination of the above two strategies. All three strategies will improve pasture condition over time, but providing a significant rest period during the growing season may help improvement to occur more quickly. Practicing some form of rotational stocking system is often a practical way to implement a rest period across all grazing units.
Sustainable Parasite Control
As the weather warms up, flies and other insects will be back to challenge our livestock. If you have experienced decreased effectiveness of your pest management strategies over time, you may want to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from K-State Research & Extension livestock entomologist, Dr Cassandra Olds. Continue reading “Sustainable Parasite Control” →
Cattlemen’s Day Videos Posted
KSU ASI hosted Cattlemen’s Day 2021 on Friday, March 5 using the Zoom platform. Videos of the presentations are now posted.
- Feed & Water
- Reproduction & Genetics
- Cost of Production & Marketing
- Employee Management
The K-State beef extension team strives to address all phases of beef production from "farm to fork".