Spring Focused Approach Key for Grazing Success

CANADA - Focusing on establishing good grass coverage in the spring and thinking about a 365 day grazing system is important for cattle enterprises, Jim Gerrish has told Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
calendar icon 8 January 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

The importance of good grass coverage has been emphasised by Mr Gerrish who stated that 'you need grass to grow grass'. Although acknowledging that every year is different, the Alberta government has been finding out what basic principles can be abided to have grazing success.

One way to focus your efforts is to treat March/April as the time when the grazing year ends. This means a year long grazing season when the management of your grassland is considered all year round.

Spring time grazing should be viewed as a time when a grazing system strategy starts its new cycle. In northern climates, spring grazing is especially crucial because the growing season is short. The forage period of very active growth in Alberta is about 60 growing days (mid-May to mid-July).

This rapid growth period will be earlier and shorter in drier regions of the province; less in the north where the period of long daylight is short; less in areas of fewer frost free days; varies depending on forage species growth types; varies with plant species health due to previous year’s management; and varies with fertility.

The spring season offers a '40-day game' in which new tillers should be developed ensuring plant regrowth.

“If management is successful, you’ll have a 10 watt and not a 3 watt solar panel on each pasture acre. That 40 days will vary, but in this short window of time, we want to challenge plants/pastures to perform at a maximum rate of photosynthetic capture for their 1-3 growing cycles that they have each year," advised Grant Lastiwka, forage, grazing and beef specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

"We want these cycles to capture plant food at a maximum as long as plant vigor, nutrients, and weather conditions will allow. The captured sunlight energy is converted into plant/forage yield that will be used to budget for the other 325-days of the grazing year.”

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