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Are You Preparing Your Pastures For the Grazing Season?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
April 6, 2016        
           
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Are You Preparing Your Pastures For the Grazing Season?
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (04/06/16) — Although the chilly temperatures may still have us thinking winter, spring has officially sprung here in Central Minnesota, and it’s time for dairy farmers who graze to start thinking about those pastures.  With everything else that may be happening in the spring, it is still important to give some attention to pastures, and make sure you are ready for another grazing season.  Here are some of my top tips:

First, take some time to consider past grazing seasons.  What has worked?  What hasn’t?  How has the weather affected your grazing?  Are there paddocks that have needed extra attention? Were there any goals you made at the end of last season for this season?  Was there something new you wanted to try?  Thinking about the past can help you plan for the future, and ensure good productivity in the coming grazing season. 

Second, make some repairs.  Take the time to walk the fence line of your pastures.  Make note of weak or broken areas and what you will need to strengthen or repair them.  Then, gather the supplies you need and repair the spots you noted.  Also, if you use an electric fence, make sure it is working properly to avoid any unnecessary risks.  Do a final walk of the fence line to make sure you didn’t miss anything.  Good fences not only make good neighbors, but they also make a good pasture managers by keeping cows in and large wildlife out. 

Third, clean up.  I won’t sing the song, but make sure to clean up, clean up everywhere.  Walk the pastures in search of anything that shouldn’t be there.  Trash, debris, rocks, and fallen tree limbs should all be cleaned up to prevent any hazards to the cows.  This is a step that may take some time, especially if you have dealt with storms or high winds.  However, it’s a step that shouldn’t be skipped, as it is crucial to not only animal health, but overall pasture health as well.

Fourth, work on establishment of new seedings.  You may have seeded down some pastures last fall or done some early frost seeding.  Check those seedings as soon as you can to check their progress, and to see if the fall seedings have fared well through the winter.  Remember that new seedings cannot take the same stress as older stands.  As you get into the grazing season, work the new stands in gradually and monitor them for progress and make adjustments as necessary.  Taking good care of the new stands now ensure they will be high producing stands in future seasons.

Fifth, think water.  If you have water lines in your paddocks, check them for damage and make any needed repairs.  Also, consider how water is set up.  In your reflection from last season, you may have realized waterers need to be moved.  In particular, think about moving tanks that have been in an area that gets muddy easily.  You should try to prevent animals from standing in mud as much as possible, so moving water lines and tanks is a good way to combat that. 

Lastly, survey the pasture situation.  Are your pastures extra muddy from the snowmelt?  You may need to create a sacrifice area to hold cattle to prevent them from ripping up the entire pasture.  Are you paddocks accessible?  Make sure the layout of your pasture makes sense and allows for ease in moving cattle and managing the land.

It goes without saying that spring is a busy time of year.  However, don’t ignore your cow pastures!  Planning and preparing your pastures will ensure that they are productive all season long.  If you would like further information about grazing your dairy cows, visit the UMN Extension Dairy Team website at www.extension.umn.edu/dairy.

Contacts

Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
krek0033@umn.edu
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