Remember the R’s! Easy to remember grazing principles
One simple way to keep the best of the grazing principles in mind is to remember the r’s. That includes Rotate, Rest, and Recover, along with proper stocking Rates and maintaining healthy Root systems. In this blog post we will discuss one of the R’s, Rest.
Aim to rest pastures much longer than you graze them “We’ve got some very rough, marginal ground. We used to graze in 120- acre pastures, but we dropped that down to 40- and 20-acre paddocks to control the grazing more. I’m out in a pasture every day checking grasses to see when we should move—we try to leave anywhere from four to six inches of grass standing in the pasture every year. We graze a pasture once a year and then it rests for another year. With the pastures resting all the time, in our last drought here, we had grass two to three feet tall where other pastures were six to eight inches tall around us. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication, but in the long run it pays off big time because you’ll have grass when you need it.”
–– Gene Ausland Day County, SD
Think of your grasslands as your children. Both are ever changing and developing, and both need rest. Just as young children take naps
to stay healthy, grasslands need rest after grazing to stay healthy. But their rest period is longer—a minimal 45 days, often 365 days or more. The goal is to allow all plants in the pasture to regrow and fully complete their growth cycle.
Think about elite athletes
Another way to think about resting your grasslands is to compare the rest they need to elite athletes. A marathon runner isn’t going to run a race two days in a row. Race horse owners wouldn’t think about running horses that soon, either. Another analogy is with the boxer who keeps getting knocked down. If that boxer gets knocked down repeat- edly, and gets up in an
Babies, children, athletes — all of us — need rest to recover from activity or injury. Think of grasslands in the same way.
Remember the R’s
injured or weaker state each time, there comes a point he or she doesn’t get up at all. Grasses react the same way—if they are grazed into the ground and then the new growth is nipped off again and again without a rest period, there aren’t enough leaves to feed roots; roots stop growing and the plant doesn’t survive, let alone thrive.
Rest requirements vary
The most common rest period is a year—once- through grazing followed by rest until the next year. Some systems are twice- through, where livestock graze only the top one-third to one-half of forage the first time through. Then comes a longer rest. In a twice-through management system, the second graz- ing event must be carefully monitored to ensure enough plant material is left after grazing to ensure roots and leaves continue to grow. Consideration should be given to delaying turn in dates the year after a drought. Even with normal rainfall, full production wouldn’t be expected the year following a drought, unless those pastures are very well managed. Well managed pastures likely have healthy soils that pro- mote rainwater infiltration and hold moisture. That’s a direct contrast with continu- ally grazed pastures. Pastures grazed all season long could take three to four years to get back to full production after a drought. The bottom line is it takes even more rest in a continually grazed pasture to recover from drought years.