2012 Pasture Seasonal Summary

The 2012 pasture season started unseasonably earlier than normal with warm temperatures and relatively dry soil conditions in March. This was followed by the inevitable frost and cool weather that slowed growth. The big spring flush never materialized as the spring rains did not arrive. After this slow start the lack of moisture during the summer resulted in reduced growth and less than ideal pasture conditions throughout the summer.

Well managed pastures using rotational grazing which moves livestock to a new paddock every 1-3 days showed very positive benefits. Pastures where the livestock were moved frequently but left a 7-10+ cm amount of residual growth to maintain a reasonable root system allowed the pasture to continue growing and paid significant dividends in 2012.

Army worms caused significant damage to pastures particularly along the north shore of Lake Erie through to the Huron and Bruce counties. The armyworm damage coupled with the cool dry spring put added stress on pasture productivity.

Pastures with a good level of legume content and adequate fertility provided a reasonable amount of forage throughout most of the summer. Pastures that were not rotationally grazed required supplemental feeding for parts of the summer which varied from 1-8 weeks. This was particularly evident in the areas of the province that had very dry conditions throughout the summer - Renfrew, Niagara, north shore of Lake Erie north to Waterloo and Grey-Bruce. Many producers found alternative forage sources including cereals, sorghum-sudan grass, brassicas and there was an increased interest in grazing corn.

Pastures that were stressed in 2012 by lack of rain, insect pressure (such as armyworm) and over-grazing, may be slower to start in 2013. There is a grazing adage "a day in the spring is worth 3 in the fall", keep this in mind for the start of the 2013 grazing season and exercise patience when wanting to get livestock out to pasture.

Although the growing season has ended some are still grazing stockpiled perennial forage, oats seeded after wheat harvest, turnips or corn. Perennial pasture is half the cost of stored forage and pastured annuals are about 2/3 the cost of stored forage.

Corn stalks are an excellent feed source for non lactating cows. Making use of corn stalks as a feed source during some of the winter months will provide low cost feed and extend your stored forage. Remember that every day grazing contributes to a lower annual feed cost.

Figure 1: Not only did armyworm impact the winter wheat crop in parts of the province there was also significant feeding on many pasture grass species.

Figure 1: Not only did armyworm impact the winter wheat crop in parts of the province there was also significant feeding on many pasture grass species.

For further information, refer to the OMAFRA Forage Website.

Technical information can also be obtained at the OMAFRA Field Crops Webpage and Crop Pest Ontario.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca