If not managed properly, muddy pastures can affect grazing the rest of the year, says University of Missouri Extension regional livestock specialist Patrick Davis.
“Cattle producers need to evaluate their pastures,” Davis says. Identify pastures that are thin and in need of renovation and consider using those as sacrifice pastures. Davis recommends consulting an MU Extension agronomist to grade pastures and make decisions on pastures that need renovation.
“Utilize sacrifice pastures and move cattle to these pastures for hay feeding until grass is at proper grazing height,” he says. This helps provide fertility in the form of manure and hay in these areas, which helps in the renovation process. This strategy also reduces the destruction of good pastures, which could affect their productivity throughout the grazing season.
“Wait to turn cattle onto good cool-season grass pastures until proper forage height is achieved,” says Davis. At turn-out, cool-season forages should have about 6 inches of growth. During the grazing season, cool-season grass should range from 4 to 8 inches. Stay within this range during the grazing season to maintain grass for optimum cattle performance and productivity.
“Proper seeding and management of sacrifice pastures is important to promote grass growth so those pastures can be brought back into the grazing system,” says Davis.
When making plans to reseed sacrifice pastures, Davis urges cattle producers to consult MU Extension regional agronomy specialists as well as the MU Extension guides “Establishing Forages” (extension.missouri.edu/g4650) and “Seeding Rates, Dates, and Depths for Common Missouri Forages” (extension.missouri.edu/g4652).
“Forage management is key to profitably of your cattle operation,” says Davis. For more information on these topics, contact your local MU Extension agronomy or livestock specialist. Find additional resources at extension.missouri.edu/programs/nrcs-mu-grasslands-project.