Using Grazing

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Knowledge Nuggets

  • People who graze cattle longer have lower costs of production compared to people who feed hay or silage.
  • Break the grazing year up into five segments being pre-growing season (April), spring (May and June), mid-summer (July and August), late summer (September), and fall/winter. Providing forage during these five seasons must be planned for to maximize the use of pasture.
  • Forages produce most of their growth in spring, grow slowly during mid-summer, and if rainfall is adequate produce moderate amounts of forage in late summer and early fall. This growth distribution does not match the forage needs of livestock throughout the growing season.
  • Planning is necessary for pastures to have adequate supplies of forage for as long as possible. Grazing of pastures must allow adequate rest for regrowth in order to stockpile forage for late summer or fall grazing. By resting pastures during mid-summer, plants will be more vigorous and regrow more rapidly through out the growing season.
  • Normally in the spring, pasture growth rate is greater than herd needs. Under continuous grazing, areas of a pasture are grazed several times and other areas are untouched. Those areas that are frequently grazed do not have adequate recovery time to replenish their roots.
  • Half of the pasture is beneath the soil in the form of roots. When a plant is grazed, the leaves are removed which are the parts of the plant that draw in energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The plant compensates for top removal by sloughing off roots.
  • As plant tops get shorter because of grazing, plant roots also get shorter. If plants tops are kept short, plant roots will become short.
  • A short root system does not access as much soil for moisture or nutrients. When it rains, these plants are not as vigorous and cannot regrow as quickly. When soil starts to dry, it does not take very long before the moisture line in the soil is deeper than the plant roots.
  • By letting pastures rest between grazings, plants can grow tops which will grow more roots to access more water and nutrients for quick regrowth after grazing.
  • Grazing management, plant vitality, regrowth rates and stocking rates have significant effects on the length of the growing season and the grazing season.
Fact Sheets

Early Grazing Strategies

Extended Grazing

Manage Early Spring Grazing - Manitoba

Spring Grazing Frequently Asked Questions - Alberta

Year Round Grazing 365 Days

Research Papers

Let us know of good research papers for this topic.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This information published to the web on October 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 2, 2017.

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