Let’em Graze!

— Written By Kim Tungate and last updated by
en Español

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.

English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

Throughout Lee County you can find numerous pasture fields that are home to beef cattle, horses and goats. Here in the Southeast, with our longer growing season and variety of forages, we could potentially graze our livestock year round. And while we see livestock out “grazing” in the pasture unfortunately we find we truly are not managing those pastures to their potential.

As I’ve told many producers “we need to be grass farmers first, livestock producers second.”  One of the best management tools in becoming a “grass farmer” is by utilizing controlled or rotational grazing.

Interest in rotational grazing has been on the rise in recent years throughout the United States. Factors that have contributed to this may be the increase in feed and fertilizer prices as well as the demand for grass-fed meats. The simple explanation of rotational grazing is taking a large pasture field and dividing it up into smaller paddocks. This can be easily done on land that has permanent parameter fencing by simply dividing the large pasture up into smaller paddocks with the use of portable or temporary fencing. By creating smaller pastures, it forces the animal to graze what is there, instead of that animal walking large acreage and nibbling here and there, under-utilizing the pasture forages.

The amount of pasture forage actually consumed over a growing season with continuous grazing or stocking is only 35% of what is actually produced. That is a lot of wasted forage and money! In comparison a pasture that is rotationally grazed with 1-3 day rotation intervals can typically have over 70% of the growth consumed. That’s putting your animals to work for you and becoming a grass farmer!

Once established controlled grazing systems are very economical and can be easily managed. Paddock design should be based on landscape, land productivity, water availability, and the number and types of animals in the system.

Depending on the number of animals and the species of grass and legumes in the pasture system, grazing should be no closer than three inches for most forages including Bermuda and fescue. Warm season grasses such as switchgrasss, bluestem and gama grass should not be grazed under six inches. When grasses reach this point, landowners should rotate livestock to the next paddock and target the recovery period for 30-35 days before the pasture is again grazed to prevent overgrazing and stress on the forage.

During periods of heavy growth, some areas may be hayed and the forage stored or stockpiled for supplemental feeding during the later part of summer or winter months.

Cool season grasses (fescue) and legumes (clover, alfalfa) are ideally grazed from March to June and then late August to late October. This allows our warm season grasses to be grazed from June to August. Making an almost ideal year round grazing system!

For more information on how you can establish a grazing system for your pastures contact Kim Tungate, Extension Agriculture Agent, Field Crops and Livestock at 919-775-5624.

Kim Tungate is Extension Agriculture Agent, Field Crops and Livestock for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

Posted on May 28, 2014
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close
Scannable QR Code to Access Electronic Version