Seminole Crop E News

Agricultural News for Farmers and Agribusiness in SW Georgia

Is Grazing Ready for Cattle?

Posted by romeethredge on October 29, 2015

A hard question to answer is when is grazing ready for cattle. Yesterday these cattle seemed to be telling me, ” We’re tired of eating this hay and old grass, when can we get some of that good grazing across the fence?”

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Here’s Decatur County agent Kyle Brown, as he and I were checking out this field of oats mixed with rye. We were measuring the height of the growth here to try to give the farmer some advice concerning when to let the cattle in to eat.

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Here are some good thoughts from UGA Extension forage scientist, Dr. Dennis Handcock. Deciding when to let the cattle in is really where the “art” of grazing comes in. In general, the earlier one starts grazing, the more damage will be done to the pasture’s growth potential. It is a function of the growth curve. In that early stage (lag phase), when growth is slow or just beginning to get going good, grazing can essentially stop growth or slow it to a crawl. It is like a bank account with some principal in it. The more principal one has, the more growth in the account one will get. The growth rate is like compounding interest. Grass grows grass. Take away principal (grass), and the amount of growth will decrease.

So, that’s enough professor talk… Practically speaking, one really shouldn’t start grazing until there is at least 1800-2500 lbs of DM/acre, though I would wait a little later on oats as they’ll slow growing in December (particularly if it becomes very cold). For rye, that would be about 5-6 inches. For ryegrass, I’d wait until it is at least 6 inches. For oats, I’d wait until it is about 6-8 inches. The ideal would be to only graze it a little… removing just what it’s average growth rate is and maintaining at least 1500-1800 lbs DM/acre. This is why I am a BIG fan of timed (limit) grazing.

Remember… don’t be too quick to graze. Grazing too early can cost one more in the long run.

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