Grazing Management

Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on Foragebeef.ca is gradually being added to BeefResearch.ca. (More information). The new Grazing Management webpage, which is previewed below, is one example. Further webpages will be added or updated on BeefResearch.ca to include the valuable content from Foragebeef.ca, ensuring that information remains freely available online. Completion is expected by Spring 2020.




Effective grazing management on pastures not only ensures high forage yield, sustainability, animal health and productivity, all of which impact cost of production, it also benefits the pasture ecosystem.  Innovations in pasture management give producers greater control to support the environment (e.g. biodiversity) but also allow them to better use pasture resources for food production.

Pasture is a critical resource in the cattle industry. An effective management plan requires clear understanding of forage production, realistic production goals, effective grazing strategies and timely response to forage availability and environmental changes. Managing grazing lands so that they are productive and persist over time requires knowing when to graze certain species, if they can withstand multiple grazings/cuttings within a single year and how much recovery time is needed to prevent overgrazing. Continue reading

Grazing Management


Grazing management cattle
Effective grazing management on pastures not only ensures high forage yield, sustainability, animal health and productivity, all of which impact cost of production, it also benefits the pasture ecosystem.  Innovations in pasture management give producers greater control to support the environment (e.g. biodiversity) but also allow them to better use pasture resources for food production.

Pasture is a critical resource in the cattle industry. An effective management plan requires good understanding of pasture production, realistic production goals, effective grazing strategies and timely response to forage availability and environmental changes. Managing grazing lands so that they are productive and persist over time requires knowing when to graze certain species, if they can withstand multiple grazings/cuttings within a single year and how much recovery time is needed to prevent overgrazing (which is a matter of time not intensity).

Animal Health and Performance

Pasture management can affect animal health. For example, some rapidly growing pastures lack certain dietary inputs, such as roughage, dry matter and various minerals that are important for good rumen function and maximum production. This can lead to animal health issues associated with mineral deficiencies, as well as scouring and bloat, which limit weight gain and in extreme cases can cause death.[1]

A study completed in 2006[2] showed that selection of genetically improved sainfoin varieties could produce…

Continue Reading…

 

Continue reading

Forage Quality



Matching forage quality to animal needs is part of cattle management as nutrient requirements of cattle change throughout the year based on the stage of the production cycle.  When feed grain prices are high, a high-quality forage can provide a lower cost ration than a low quality forage supplemented with a concentrate.  Failing to provide all the nutrition a cow needs due to low quality forage can have animal health and performance consequences that directly impact cost of production (COP) (e.g. loss of body condition, dystocia, lower milk production, and delayed returning to estrous).  This can be largely avoided by feed testing, particularly when hay is of an unknown quality.

Stage cut, fertilization and grazing intensity determine forage quality, and it refers to the plant’s ability to provide digestible, absorbable, essential nutrients at levels that meet the animal’s physiologic needs. Forage quality is a function of voluntary intake and nutritive value (nutrient content and digestibility).1 It is typically assessed by measuring crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), and acid detergent fibre (ADF) (Kerley 2004)2

Protein and Energy

Proteins and energy are the most essential nutrients in cattle diets. Crude protein (CP); calculated from total nitrogen content, is an important indicator of the total protein content in a forage crop…

Continue reading…

 

Continue reading

Forage stand mixtures



Establishing new pastures can be expensive and producers often prioritize stand life over yield. Seeding complex mixtures of grasses and legumes that maintain highly diverse botanical composition in pastures can contribute to increased persistence, yield stability and improved productivity. Yields benefit from including highly productive as well as drought-tolerant species. While some species will not persist beyond the first three or four years, other species in the mix can fill in the gap to maintain overall yields, to a degree.

Schellenberg (2013)1 assessed the productivity and crude protein content of forage stands to determine if species show complementarity in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The fast growing and highly competitive species dominated biomass production in the early establishment phase.  Including less productive species in the forage sward had minimal impact on pasture productivity or nutritional value under good growing conditions. However, less productive species should be included in pasture mixes when they bring beneficial traits (i.e. increasing nitrogen availability, drought resistance) to the forage stand that provide ‘insurance’ for less optimal years.

Continue reading

Determining optimal forage species mixtures

Forages are a major feed component for the cow-calf and backgrounding sectors of the beef industry. Appropriately managed pasture with a significant legume component is inherently one of the most sustainable feed sources. Because forage species have different yield potential and nutritional quality, the mixtures of forage species in pastures can influence the productivity of the grazing cattle.

AAFC Nappan Research Farm (Photo credit: Tracy Sakatch, BCRC)


Cattle grazing at the AAFC Nappan Research Farm, one of the sites involved in this research.

papadopoulos_duynisveld_aafc_nappan_800x800


L-R: Dr. Yousef Papadopoulos and John Duynisveld, lead researchers of this study.

Work funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is working to identify forage species mixtures that provide the best opportunity to enhance beef productivity both on pasture and with stored forages.  This research will Continue reading

Economically increasing forage production

If you’re in need of more hay or pasture land, your options are to:

  1. Purchase hay from another producer
  2. Buy or rent more hayland or pasture acres
  3. Rejuvenate the acres you’ve got through
    • Chemical fertilizer,
    • Organic fertilizer, and/or
    • Incorporating legumes
  4. Re-establish acres by tilling and reseeding

Which option is the most economical?

We’ve conducted a review of past research on increasing forage production with a greater focus on hay production for winter feed. Here’s the highlights of what we found: Continue reading

Drought tolerant forage mixtures



Because native species may increase carbon sequestration, improve wildlife habitat, lower agronomic inputs, and extend the grazing season, there is a growing interest in the use of native perennial species for seeded rangeland and reclamation following disturbance.

Diverse forage swards composed of native species have the potential to be as productive as tame monocultures in a greater range of environmental conditions. Unfortunately the information for the right combination of species is very limited.

Continue reading

How to do a rangeland health assessment: videos

Rangeland, or range, can perform a number of valuable functions for both the livestock industry as well the general public. Rangeland is defined as land that supports indigenous or introduced vegetation that is either grazed or has the potential to be grazed and is managed as a natural ecosystem. By evaluating its health, cattle producers can manage their grazing lands for optimal, sustainable forage production.

The benefits of maintaining healthy rangeland for livestock producers include:

  • Lower feed costs
  • Renewable and reliable source of forage production
  • Stability of forage production during drought
  • Greater flexibility and efficiency for alternate grazing seasons (fall or winter)
  • Lower maintenance costs like weed control
  • Does not require the input of inorganic fertilizers and other soil amedments and additives
  • Reduced concern for noxious weeds

Continue reading

Fertilizing pastures and hay: Beef Research School episode

In the previous episode of the Beef Research School, Dr. Paul Jefferson explained how to maximize your forage acres, including when to rejuvenate and when to reseed.  In this episode, we take a closer look at rejuvenation methods.

Dr. Bart Lardner with the Western Beef Development Centre discusses why producers should consider fertilizing hay and pasture land. In addition to chemical fertilizer or composted manure, in-field winter feeding systems are another strategy to consider. Continue reading

Maximizing forage acres: Beef Research School episode

Rejuvenating or reestablishing your summer pastures can allow you to graze more cows per acre for more days of the year. If you’re worried you’ve got too many cows on your pastures, are reluctant to rent or buy more acres or even tempted to sell some pasture land because of high land prices, consider how to get better forage production out of the acres you’ve got.

In the latest Beef Research School video, Dr. Paul Jefferson of the Western Beef Development Centre explains that adding alfalfa, fertilizing forages and rotational grazing will boost production. He also describes when it’s time to reseed a pasture, and gives tips on the best time to establish new forages.

Also beware that grazing forages too early in the spring, before plants have reached the 3 or 3 ½ leaf stage, will reduce yields and shorten your grazing season.

Continue reading