Evidence of new life, that occurs so reliably each spring, is one of the non-monetary rewards resulting from association with grazing livestock production. New calves and green grass are welcome reminders of the marvelous design displayed in natural systems.
When should grazing begin?
Vegetation green-up will reflect not only current environmental conditions, but the impacts of grazing management from previous growing seasons. New growth invites the question “how soon should I start grazing.” That certainly varies from year to year and depends on plans for the remainder of the growing season. Grazing was discussed in Spring Turn-Out Dates: What are your Options.
Can grazing help with undesirable plant control?
A number of invasive cool-season grasses are both palatable and nutritious early in the growing season. Intensive early grazing that is closely monitored can be useful in managing these aggressive invaders. More information can be found in the article Early Grazing for Control of Species.
Are there opportunities to graze pastures intended for winter use?
Conventional practice has been to defer winter pastures completely until they are grazed in late fall or winter. SDSU research has demonstrated that early grazing of winter pastures, again, if carefully monitored, can expand the use of these pastures without compromising winter feed supply. Guidelines are suggested in the report Do You Have to Defer Grazing on Winter Pastures?.
What about poisonous plants?
Most pasture plants are palatable and nutritious early in the springtime. Unfortunately, most of the potentially toxic plants occurring in pastures in the Northern Great Plains also express most of their growth early in the season. Comments about minimizing the risks associated with grazing pastures that may contain poisonous plants can be found in the article Poisonous Plants: Manage the Risk.
In general, the least expensive way to feed cattle, sheep, goats and horses is with grazing. By thinking carefully about when to begin and where and how to graze, it can provide one of the highest return activities on the operation, both in terms of cost and labor.