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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Lexington, Kentucky » Forage-animal Production Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #324231

Research Project: Optimizing the Biology of the Animal-Plant Interface for Improved Sustainability of Forage-Based Animal Enterprises

Location: Forage-animal Production Research

Title: From the lab bench: A systematic approach to grazing cattle

Author
item Aiken, Glen

Submitted to: Cow Country News
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/24/2015
Publication Date: 11/1/2015
Citation: Aiken, G.E. 2015. From the lab bench: A systematic approach to grazing cattle. Cow Country News. Pg. 76.

Interpretive Summary: Kentucky cattlemen are faced with the challenges that summer slumps in growth of cool-season perennial grasses and periodic drought patterns present to maintaining an ample supply of forage to cattle herds. Use of a grazing system can meet these challenges by combining cool-season perennial grasses that provide grazing in the spring and fall with a warm-season perennial grass that provides grazing during the summer slump of cool-season grasses. Warm season grasses also are better adapted to hot and dry weather patterns. The warm-season grass could also serve a dual purpose of providing both grazing and periodic hay crops. Rotational stocking is highly recommended as part of the system to maintain plant stand productivity and vigor for minimizing the risk of stand degradation from drought patterns. How these systems are planned and designed will depend on the production goals and environmental conditions of the farm and, of course, the available resources. Implementation of these systems could be of interest to cattle producers that are interested in maximizing the grazing season.

Technical Abstract: A column was written to discuss the use of grazing systems to overcome challenges of managing grazed pastures. Kentucky cattlemen must manage around summer slumps in growth of cool-season perennial grasses, periodic drought, and cattle markets that do not always cooperate with pasture growth patterns. The best manner to deal with these challenges is to implement a grazing system that provides flexibility. Planting a pasture with a warm-season perennial, such as bermudagrass, is an option to eliminate the impact of the summer slump. Other pastures could be converted to a non-toxic novel endophyte to avoid grazing toxic tall fescue in the late spring and fall months when ergot alkaloids typically are at their highest concentrations in the plants. A system that combines the grazing of cool-season and warm-season perennial grasses has potential to meet the challenge of maximizing the grazing season, but no two cattle farms are the same. How these systems are planned and designed will depend on the production goals and environmental conditions of the farm and, of course, the available resources.