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Get Off to a Good Grazing Season Start!

Nancy Glazier, Small Farms & Livestock
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

April 12, 2016
Get Off to a Good Grazing Season Start!

Rotational grazing is the optimum way to utilize pastures. Grazing animals are fenced into a specified sized paddock for a predetermined length of time. These numbers are based on calculations: animals eat and waste from 2-5% of their bodyweight per day in dry matter (depending on specie, stage of growth and production) and they need that many pounds of dry matter multiplied by the number of head. Shorter rotations utilize pastures more efficiently; dairy cows are generally moved to fresh paddocks twice a day and other livestock once a day to once a week. After 3 days on the same paddock regrowth will begin to be grazed by the livestock and can delay regrowth. I don't recommend continuous grazing unless there is much more pasture than the livestock can utilize. This method of grazing leads to poor quality pastures.
Ideal grazing height is 8-10". Can you wait that long to start grazing? No. Wait for the grass to get some growth and take a look at the number of leaves on the grass plants, more than 3 leaves. Some research indicates to count leaves not inches! Grazing when the grass is too small will remove the growing point which will slow regrowth. Flash graze if necessary; move the animals through quickly to prevent damage to growing points. If the soil is wet start grazing when there is a quantity of pasture that will help protect the soil from hoof action. If too much pasture gets ahead of you harvest excess as hay, clip the paddocks fairly closely or bring in another group of animals. This will encourage tillering of the grass plants. Last season's residue helps to protect the soil, too.
Where to start? This may depend on what ground is dryer or what pasture grasses have more growth. Some pastures may be better suited for mechanical harvest so keep that in mind when beginning the grazing season. A rule of thumb to start the season is you'll need to harvest half since the livestock can't keep up. Another option would be to graze additional livestock during rapid growth times.
Keeping residual plant (what's left after grazing) height taller encourages regrowth of the taller plants. Kentucky bluegrass, annual bluegrass, less-productive clovers (think white clover in your lawn), and weeds do well under short conditions. Leaving the residue taller will encourage the more productive, taller plants to flourish and stay productive. Take half, leave half is a good rule of thumb.
Rest period is just as important as residency period. Pastures need adequate time for regrowth to remain productive. Spring conditions that are cool and moist encourage fast regrowth, 10-14 days, hot and dry conditions may warrant 40-60 days.
A big problem is leaving grazing animals out too late in the fall. I have been told by a seasoned grazier that one day more in the fall will be three days less grazing in the spring. Grass plants need root and rhizome reserves (stored energy) to begin spring growth. There will be little leaf material to capture sunlight for photosynthesis so energy to begin growth is supplied by the stored carbohydrates. This can't be helped now, but keep this in mind in the fall.
A great way to learn about grazing is to attend a pasture walk. Those that host one learn more than those that attend, so I have been told! If you'd like to host just drop me an email!  











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1