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Ohio County March Newsletter

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Be Careful on When to Start Grazing

Don’t rush when to start grazing. Growth could be a little slow in the spring and pastures may have sustained damage from the winter conditions. If fields were not grazed in late fall or over the winter and are in good shape, you may be able to do a fast rotation through them when growth allows it and the livestock do not cause damage. However, if fields are not in good shape, allowing animals to graze it could stress the plant. Waiting is a better option for long term grazing. Grass starts growing form the roots and needs enough leaf surface to start putting energy back into the roots, and if it is grazed off before this can happen, it will weaken or kill the plant. This could also cause summer annual weeds to germinate and grow in the next few months.

If you do plan on doing early grazing when growth starts with the hope that by the time that is done the spring growth will have started, don’t keep livestock in paddocks too long. A fast rotation will reduce the chances that animals will graze too close. If you have damage to paddocks, there are a several options: do nothing or smooth up and re-seed. If damage is not too bad, you can simply do nothing. Production may be limited for the year and you may need to monitor weed issues. Fortunately, if you have sheep and goats, damage is likely to be less than with cattle. There are a lot of variables in each producer’s operation. Everyone’s situation is a little different, but resist the temptation if hay is running short to put your animals out on fields that are just starting to grow that have been under any stress from close grazing or winter damage. 

(Source: Forages: Ohio State University Extension)

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