Sward Management

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Good pasture condition is critical to a successful grazing system. Pasture quality may vary greatly from paddock to paddock or year to year, due to differences in management, environment, fertility, grazing pressure or animal species.
  • Desirable species provide high quality and production for a large part of the grazing season. Typically the desirable forages are hardy grasses and legumes that regrow quickly. Undesirable species are those that are typically unpalatable.
  • Plant diversity is important to maintain a productive pasture throughout the entire landscape and growing season. If only one kind of plant exists, diversity is narrow and production will be limited. If many plant varieties are present, diversity is broad.
  • High plant density is important. Bare and open spots are unproductive and allow for weed encroachment and soil erosion.
  • Rate of regrowth following grazing is critical to a productive sward. Desirable species should be healthy and growing at their potential.
  • Legumes are an important source of nitrogen to pastures and improve quality and quantity.
  • Severity and frequency of grazing are critical in maintaining productive pastures. Close and/or frequent grazing reduces vigor and density of desired species. Light use causes excessive residue buildup, blocks sunlight and reduces forage quality.
  • Differences in species, plant maturity and stocking rates cause uneven grazing with some plants or parts of the paddock grazed heavily and others lightly. Uniform grazing results in all plants being grazed to a similar height.
  • A woody canopy provides shade for animals but may result in uneven grazing, uneven manure distribution, trampling and erosion. A woody canopy also intercepts sunlight and competes for water and nutrients.
  • Decaying plant residue provides nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Too much residue results in poor nutrient cycling. Too little residue results in excessive water run off or evaporation.
Fact Sheets

Determining Pasture Condition - only available in PDF format (Wisconsin Extension)

Distance Cattle Travel to Water affects Pasture Utilization Rate

Economics of Managing Crested Wheat Grass Pastures Infested with Wolf Plants - available in PDF format

Effect of Date of First Use on Forage Yields of Russian Wildrye- available in PDF format

Forage Yield and Quality Distribution of Diverse Pastures

Grass Growth and Response to Grazing - also available in PDF format

Grazing Tame Pastures Effectively - also available in PDF format

Pasture Legumes Identified

Pasture Management : Maintaining Permanent Pastures for Livestock - only available in PDF format

Productivity of Diverse Pastures in a Wet Versus Dry year

Sward Characteristics of Beef Finishing Pastures

Sward Height and Yield Relationships in Grazed Pastures

Research Papers

Complexity and composition of pasture swards affect plant productivity and soil organisms - available in PDF format

Energy to Protein Ratio of Grass–Legume Binary Mixtures under Frequent Clipping - available in PDF format

Fatty acids in forages. 1: Factors affecting concentrations - available in PDF format only

Fatty acids in forages. 11. In vitro ruminal biohydrogenation of linolenic and linoleic acids from timothy - available in PDF format only

Forage energy to protein ratio of several legume–grass complex mixtures - available in PDF format

Grazing Before Grass Is Ready

Grazing tolerance of alfalfa (Mdeicago spp.) under continuous and rotational stocking systems in pure stands and in mixtures with meadow brome grass - available in PDF format only

Intensively managed pasture in the Great Lakes Region: a future-oriented review - available in PDF format only

Pasture type and fertilization effects on soil chemical properties and nutrient redistribution - available in PDF format only

Relationships between soil cations and plant characteristics based on spatial variability in a forage field - available in PDF format only

Seasonal herbage dynamics on Aspen Parkland landscapes in central Alberta - available in PDF format only

Sward complexity and grass species composition affect performance of grass-white clover pasture mixtures - available in PDF format only

Viewpoint: Implications of spatial variability for estimating forage use - available in PDF format only

  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This information published to the web on September 3, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 13, 2017.

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