Earlier this fall Dr. Vanessa Corriher Olson, an Extension forage researcher at Texas A & M’s station in Overton, Texas spoke on “myths, facts and practicality of grazing management” during the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council’s Fall Forage Conference in Conway, Ark. Among the myths of pasture management, Corriher Olson said, that you always need to “take half and leave half” of your forage – she said that’s very dependent upon the type of forage, the time of year and the system- – and that if a system works for another producer, it will always work for you.
She said although people associate grazing management with intensive systems like rotational or strip grazing, continuous grazing is itself a management tool. “A majority of the producers in East Texas where I’m located use primarily continuous grazing because it’s the easiest,” Corriher Olson said. “It requires less work on their part. They already have a perimeter fence; they have no need or no desire to do additional cross fencing, or add to their labor or to their time.”
She pointed out cattle raising is not the primary job of many producers, and they’re seeking a system that requires the least amount of labor.  But there are disadvantages, such as uneven use of standing forage by the cattle. She said, “Depending on the layout of their land, in a season (the cows) may spend the majority of their time in the shade, especially during the summer or in the middle of the day and in the heat of the day, and less time grazing in the pasture. Or they may spend a lot of time around water or other aspects of the pasture, avoiding or not necessarily efficiently using all of the forage that is available in that pasture.”
In addition, the plants are defoliated more frequently under continuous grazing, and as a result will not survive a drought; that drives up the producer’s expense. She said, “They’re seeing great depreciation in those forages and those stands, and will continue to see a decline in that forage production that ultimately impacts their income and their budget, because they’re having to spend more money controlling weeds or reestablishing that particular pasture.”
Rotational stocking, where cattle are moved from pasture to pasture so the grass can rest and regrow, has several advantages; it improves pasture longevity, and allows the opportunity to stockpile forage and raise stocking rates. However, Corriher Olson warned employing the practice is no guarantee of good pasture management. “A lot of people think if they throw up some cross fencing and they rotate their animals kind of blindly, without really thinking about forage growth and production and their animal nutrient requirements, that they’re good managers. And that would not necessarily be the case,” she said. Among the important aspects of management she discussed were maintaining soil fertility and pH, and calculating stocking rates to get the maximum gain from the available area.
One practice she’s looked into is creep grazing. “Calves obviously have a higher nutrient requirement than cows, so you create a smaller area of a higher quality forage,” she said. “Our higher quality forage happened to be Aeschynomene, which is a tropical legume. Legumes are higher quality than grasses. So, it’s an opportunity to strictly only allow the calves access into this creep grazing area.”
Other alternative methods include first-last grazing, where animals that need the highest nutrition get new grass first, as well as forward creep grazing and strip grazing, which had the highest efficiency of all grazing methods.


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