Contact: Myron Hartzell
Grassland Specialist, NRCS
(417) 345-2312 x3
In early March, with the warmer days of spring just around the corner and a hint of green beginning to show in the pastures of the area, the urge to turn cows loose on new grass really hits strong. Hay supplies are dwindling and we are tired of feeding everything they eat. The sooner we can get out on pasture, the better. Maybe not. Along the highways, we already see cows having to make it on that first two inches or so, running from blade to blade. While the cows struggle to find enough to eat, the grass stand may not be so healthy.
Plants depend on sunlight for most of their food needs. They gather this sunlight through the leaves and convert it to energy for growth. When the leaves are grazed off, survival and growth must come from the roots, which are already stressed from keeping it alive through the winter. Weakened roots die off and are less able to gather moisture and fertility also needed for growth. Since root systems are comparable to top growth, we can easily see that these stands cannot make it through the dry summer months and some folks just always seem to have a drought no matter what the summer is like.
By adjusting our grazing management and leaving a good leaf area (finger deep), our pastures can perform well for us throughout the year. Typically there is not enough growth to turn out on grass at four to six inches tall until early April. That few extra days of hay now can pay back in grazing days all year long.
Hope your grazing season is long and productive. For more information contact your local USDA or Soil and Water Conservation District office.