Location: Dairy Forage ResearchTitle: Grazing management effects on pasture productivity – timing of grazing Author
Submitted to: Forage Focus
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/29/2013
Publication Date: 5/8/2013
Citation: Brink, G.E., Jackson, R.D. 2013. Grazing management effects on pasture productivity – timing of grazing. Forage Focus. 8:15-16. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: What is the potential impact of more frequent grazing during particular times of the year? A range of grazing management systems was implemented at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center at Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, on 1.0 acre paddocks of meadow fescue, orchardgrass, quackgrass, and reed canarygrass. Within each paddock, we determined how timing of grazing (spring, summer, and fall) affects grass growth. In this experiment, grasses were grazed when they reached a 6-, 12-, or 18-inch height to a 3-inch residue in the spring (early to late May), summer (early to late July), or fall (late August to late September). Grasses were grazed at a 12-inch height to a 3-inch residue during the remainder of the season. Yield was measured before each grazing event, and tillers were counted at the end of the treatment period. Maximum annual yield was obtained when grasses were grazed at 18 inches in the spring (a situation similar to making hay) although tiller density was reduced compared to grazing at 12 inches throughout the season. Grazing when grasses reached 6 inches in height in the spring (a situation similar to setting the grazing wedge) reduced annual yield 20% compared to grazing at 12 inches during the whole season. Only meadow fescue tiller density was negatively affected by grazing at 6 inches during the spring. Grazing when grasses reached 6 inches in height in the summer (a situation similar to grazing drought-stressed pastures) reduced annual yield 10% compared to grazing at 12 inches throughout the season. Grazing when grasses reached 6 inches in the fall did not influence annual yield the following year, but a 3-inch residue height was always maintained. Vegetative-stage grasses are at greater risk of damage from inappropriate grazing management than mature grass, and grass under stress (moisture, fertility) is at greater risk of damage from poor grazing management than those that are not.