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Rules of thumb for managing pastures

Livestock producers have the continual task of evaluating their pastures to ensure they have adequate plant stands for their animals to graze. When evaluating, you need to take an inventory of the plants and evaluate their growth.

When taking the inventory, take note of the different types of forages in the field, the amount of each forage present, and types and amount of weeds present. There are two rules of thumb to follow when assessing your pasture stand.  They are:

  1. Less than 10% of the soil should be visible in a cool-season grass or cool-season grass/legume pasture.
  2. There should be 2 legume plants per square foot in a grass-legume pasture.

If either of those rules of thumbs are not met, then you may want to consider renovating your pasture. If weeds, including toxic plants, are found, you should take appropriate steps to eradicate or control them. However, those steps cannot be taken until you successfully identify the plant of concern.

When allowing your animals to graze, you want to make sure you do not overgraze the pasture. When determining if the animals have grazed that field long enough, there are two rules of thumb to follow. They are:

  1. Leave 3 or 4 inches of cool-season grasses after grazing.
  2. Leave 6 to 8 inches of warm-season grasses after grazing.

Once you reach either of the height suggestions, you would remove the animals from that field and put them in another field to graze. This process is referred to as rotational grazing. It may seem like you are leaving a lot of useable forages in the field, but plants will recover much faster if a larger amount of leaf surface remains to grow from.

If you would like to know more about how to evaluate your pasture and forage fields to determine if they need renovated, then you may want to attend the Management of Pastures & Forages program scheduled for June 2nd at the Putnam County Fairgrounds – Harris Hall Building. This program will start at 6:00 pm. In addition to discussing how to evaluate your pastures & forage fields, this program will also cover how to identify toxic plants in your fields. If you would like to attend, please register by June 1st by calling 765-653-8411 or emailing smith535@purdue.edu.

Purdue Extension Office by calling 765.653.8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee. Purdue University is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. All times listed are Eastern Time.

 

Upcoming Events:

May 24 – Turning Your Lawn to Garden webinar, 12 pm, register at
                https://women4theland.org/upcoming-events

May 30 – Extension Office closed in observance of Memorial Day

June 2 – Management of Pastures & Forages, 6 pm, Fairgrounds, register at 765-653-8411

June 17 – Summer PARP, 9 am, Fairgrounds, register at 765-653-8411

July 12 – Forest Management and Selling Timber webinar, 12 pm, register at
               https://women4theland.org/upcoming-events

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