Early Summer Grazing Management Opportunities

It is early summer, and the grass is growing faster than you can get animals out on the paddocks to use it. Pasture management decisions made today will enhance pay off later this fall. Planning for the grazing season ahead includes:

  • feed budgeting
  • seeding
  • stockpiling
  • fly control
  • mineral placement
  • rotation scheduling
  • weed control
  • making hay

Prepare a Feed Budget

Preparing a feed budget for the remainder of the grazing season will assist you in determining whether you need to find extra sources of pasture. A feed budget is simply adding up the quantity of forage you will need for your livestock and comparing that total to the estimated quantity of forage that will be available for the remainder of the season.

To determine the quantity of dry matter required for livestock needs, use 3% of the total animal body weight' or 4% for high producing animals. Approximate the quantity of forage based on the density of the stands and estimated yield.

If the above comparison shows that you do not have enough available forage for your livestock's dry matter requirements, then consider one or more of the following ideas:

Seed Annuals
Annuals seeded in early to mid summer will provide supplemental grazing forage for late summer and into the fall. Sorghum-sudan seeded in June will provide a large quantity of high quality grazing in August. Forage or stubble turnips and fodder rape or kale offer grazing from late summer to late fall. These brassicas (members of the cabbage family) have good frost tolerance, which allows them to be utilized long after other annuals and perennials have stopped growing for the season. Cereals planted in late July or early August mean September and October grazing, and corn is another crop which can be effectively grazed during its wide window of opportunity from August to December.

Stockpile Forage
Extend the grazing season with stockpiled forage. Pasture fields allowed to re-grow from mid July can accumulate a significant quantity of forage for grazing after the growing season has ended. It is during the early summer that you need to take the first steps to have a successful late fall grazing opportunity. These fields should be allowed to grow from mid to late July to accumulate forage for later use. Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer to achieve optimum growth. Fields with trefoil and clovers will provide better late season grazing than alfalfa fields. Of the grass species, tall fescue is an excellent stockpile grass, as it holds its quality well into the winter. Orchard grass breaks down with frost and will not provide the quantity or quality of grazing as tall fescue or the brome grasses.

Fly Control

Livestock that are being irritated by flies are not going to be as productive as those that can focus on grazing undisturbed. Early fly control measures such as back rubbers and ear tags will pay off later in the season. These are two available options that will reduce the fly population and provide relief for your livestock, resulting in improved gains.

Salt and Mineral

Salt and mineral should be provided throughout the grazing season. Position salt and mineral away from the water source to encourage more even pasture utilization. Use a mineral program which meets the needs of your livestock and takes into consideration the type of cattle and the quality of the forage available.

Slow Rotation

As we move into the warmer temperatures of the summer, grass growth will slow and therefore you will need to slow the rate of pasture rotation. Slowing the rotation gives the recently grazed pastures more time to re-grow, and this rest and recovery period will keep your pastures productive through the entire grazing season. Overgrazed pastures take much longer to grow back, have lower drought tolerance and are much more susceptible to weed infestations.

Weed Control

Late June is an ideal time to clip pastures if there is an accumulation of mature grass plants or evidence of a weed problem. Clipping mature grass will stimulate new growth. At the same time, clipping weeds will remove seed heads and reduce the chance of the plants reseeding themselves. If the weed pressure is very low, consider spot spraying to prevent a further increase in weed pressure.

Make Hay (if necessary)

By mid June all pastures in a rotational system should have been grazed at least once. If there are several paddocks not yet grazed, consider making hay with one or more of these paddocks. If you decide to make hay consider cutting with a 3-4 inch stubble to promote faster re-growth of the grasses.

Early summer is an ideal time to evaluate your pasture management and make any necessary adjustments to your grazing program to ensure productivity into the fall. Now is the time to consider seeding for supplemental grazing; stockpiling forage, slowing rotation and making hay to ensure re-growth later in the season; and assessing your fly control, mineral and weed control programs. July may be too late to make adjustments that will allow you to enhance the productivity of your pasture system, but June is the optimal time to act.

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