Pasture Management Key For Cattle Industry

SASKATCHEWAN - With the total cattle herd in Saskatchewan somewhere in the range of 3.45 million animals, proper pasture management is always an important aspect of the province’s agricultural sector.
calendar icon 25 September 2006
clock icon 2 minute read

This year is no exception. With drier conditions in some parts of the province, community pasture managers are keeping a close eye on the state of their rangeland and putting their expertise to work.

Blake Kohls is the Southern Regional Manager for the Saskatchewan Pastures Program with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. He is responsible for over 400,000 acres of rangeland and the 36,000 head of cattle that use the community pastures in his area.

Kohls stated that lower moisture conditions can quickly limit plant growth and reduce forage yields. It can also limit root growth, making plants less capable of reaching what little moisture is in the ground. Kohls said native grasses are less susceptible to these problems, and the nutritional value will remain high right into the fall, but tame grass will see a drop-off in quality.

“The food value really starts to deteriorate in some of the tame grass later in the year, and especially in a dry season. So in those cases, you have to watch the condition of the cattle closely,” he noted.

Reduced forage yield can have a significant impact on cattle health, from reduced weight gain to more open cows and late conception.

As a result, proper pasture management is essential to the well-being of the industry.

Kohls indicated there are a number of rangeland management techniques that might be applied to pastures facing lower moisture levels, including reducing animal numbers to balance livestock needs with forage supply, and grazing management practices such as herding or fencing out stock water sources.

In some southwestern community pastures, for example, Kohls noted that they are looking at sending some cattle home 10 days to two weeks earlier than would normally be anticipated.

“It’s a matter of the range conditions,” he said. “The range conditions are going to be such that we’re going to want to have enough carryover for the 2007 season, and in doing so, we just don’t have the plant matter there this year to extend our grazing season well into the middle of October, as we might in other years.”

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