Submitted to: Forage Focus
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: February 23, 2011
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Citation: Brink, G.E. 2011. Effect of residue height and timing of grazing on pasture quality, productivity and persistence. Forage Focus. 4:18-19. Technical Abstract: Pasture management questions frequently asked by producers include 1) How does residue height of vegetative grass influence pasture growth?; 2) How does mob-stocking of mature grass influence pasture growth?; 3) What is the effect of early grazing in the spring when grass is still short?; 4) What is the effect of grazing short, drought-stressed grass?; and 5) What is the effect of grazing grass that is still growing late in the fall? Researchers at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center designed two trials to determine how meadow fescue, orchardgrass, quackgrass, and reed canarygrass respond to different grazing management systems. The research was conducted on 8 acres of intensively managed pasture, stocked by dairy heifers, at the USDFRC farm near Prairie du Sac, Wis. The results are presented as answers to the five questions. In summary, the effect of residue height and timing of grazing was different under different management treatments or conditions. A residue of 3-4 inches is best for pastures with tall-growing grasses (orchardgrass, tall fescue, etc.). Routinely grazing these grasses short (less than 2 inches) reduces pasture productivity, persistence, and profit. Permitting grasses to fully mature in order to mob-stock reduces pasture productivity and forage quality. Carefully consider your management objectives before using this system for dairy. Grazing pastures short (2-3 inches) during summer drought will have the greatest negative effect on annual pasture productivity compared to grazing in early spring or late fall.