Forage Allocation during the Pasture Season to keep Yourself, your Forage Plants, and your Livestock Happy - Avoiding Train Wrecks in an Uncertain World Session
In order to maintain high quality forage in front of the pastured livestock, it takes some preseason planning and a flexible approach to allocating pasture forage as weather and other random events create a need to adjust the grazing plan that was based on past experience. High quality forage is key to getting the best fatty acid composition possible from pastured livestock milk and meat products. Two speakers presented two tools to best achieve keeping high quality pasture forage in front of the livestock at a level that produces enough forage at all times so as not to restrict livestock intake. The first presentation displays a computer tool to develop a grazing plan based on the farm’s resources to produce pasture. Various scenarios can be developed that are appealing to the farmer to get them started on the right foot to allocate pasture forage to their livestock for the entire grazing season under “normal” conditions that currently exist at the farm. This tool can also be used to expand pasture operations, if so desired, by scoping out efforts to improve pasture plant composition through reseeding, correcting soil acidity, and improving soil fertility and grazing management, or converting other land resources to pasture. The second presentation is on grazing charts, a method of keeping track of the movement of livestock from one pasture paddock to another in a rotational pasture grazing system. This records information on how often the livestock are moved from one paddock to another as the forage allowance for the time the livestock are on a particular paddock is adjusted so as not to overgraze a paddock and restrict animal intake. As the vagaries of the weather and unforeseen management events occur, notes are penciled in to record adjustments made in paddock size, livestock numbers, bringing in additional pasture paddocks to lengthen the grass recovery period, and other adjustments as needed to keep the animals well-fed and having enough forage ahead of them to avoid feeding hay or other feedstuffs to keep them fed. If their fresh green forage intake is interrupted, fatty acid composition of their meat or milk is likely to change to a less desirable one.
Heather Darby, Ph.D. and Ms. Lindsey Ruhl*
Mr. Troy Bishopp*