Pastures need proper management

Pasture is an excellent low-cost means of feeding livestock, but requires proper management of the forage and the livestock.
The following is the first of a two-part article on utilizing your pasture from Jack Kyle, grazier specialist, OMAF/MRA:
The forage must be managed to optimize growth, and the livestock must be managed to optimize utilization.
Your goal as you manage your pastures is to grow as much grass as possible and have it consumed at the point of optimum nutrition and quantity with minimal waste.
How much of the pasture growth actually is eaten and utilized by the grazing livestock is going to influence the success and profitability of your pasture business.
Producing a lot of growth is of little benefit it is not utilized by livestock.
Factors affecting utilization:
•Forage that is over-mature will not be effectively utilized (mature, tall grass is hard for the animals to bite off and also difficult to digest).
•Forage that is too short (less than 5-7 cm) does not allow the animal to get a big bite (they spend extra time walking to get enough forage).
•Forage that is contaminated by feces or urine will not be eaten.
•Forage that is tramped or laid on is less likely to be eaten.
If there is a wide choice of plants to graze, the most palatable will be eaten while the less desirable will be left behind.
These plants then have a chance to continue growing, and over time will dominate the pasture.
Ways to improve utilization:
•Minimize the area and amount of grass that is available at any one time (there will be a higher proportion of fresh grass available to the animal).
•Smaller paddocks reduce walking and tramping, which means more time for grazing and resting.
•Provide water in the paddock (this minimizes the amount of time spent away from the pasture and not eating).
If there are significant manure patties that are not breaking down, consider harrowing to spread these patties out and speed up the breakdown.
Cattle eating grass that is optimum for performance will have loose manure that will not be in dried patties.
If there are weeds and mature plants, clipping can improve utilization.
Livestock grazing a “new” or “fresh” paddock focus on grazing, become full quicker, and will spend more time resting rather than wandering looking for another bite of palatable grass.
Intake of high-quality forage is much better than low quality.
Higher Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF) decreases intake because of slower digestive passage.

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