Spring Pasture Advice

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It’s officially spring and while our weather is still experiencing some highs and lows, our pastures are starting to do some serious growing. Pastures are important for any livestock producers, regardless of species. When the pastures start turning green and growing, we know it’s time to stop feeding hay and using the grass we are producing.

Spring is a time to really start thinking about what you have growing, how many animals you will be putting on those pastures, and what sort of management style you will employ. Rotational grazing is a topic that will be covered in future articles but it is basically using the pastures to your advantage. Breaking up larger pastures into smaller lots allows the animals to use the grass efficiently and lets it have time to regrow, so you get the highest quality grazing possible.

Soil testing is important when determining the amount of fertilizer you will need for this year. As your grass is actively growing, it is time to take note on your problem areas and see where you can make some improvements. Soil tests can be very useful and are free! Come by the extension office for your soil sampling kit and instructions.

One concern with this spring weather and spring green-up is grass tetany. The extreme change from mostly hay to lush, green pasture can cause a problem in some of our livestock species. Grass tetany has occurred with animals grazing orchardgrass, timothy, tall fescue, and annual ryegrass just to name a few. A deficiency of magnesium (Mg) causes animals to “stagger” around, have twitching skin, and act very nervous. Often these symptoms go undetected and the animal dies before you know what is going on. Older cows are more susceptible than their younger counterparts. Please call the office if you have any questions about grass tetany.

Bloat is another concern for cattlemen in our state. Turning animals out on lush pastures may make them more prone to bloat and it seems to occur more readily with immature legume pastures. Hoever, bloat can occur on any pasture that is low in fiber and highly digestible; animals that are hungry when turned out are also more prone to bloat. Often the animals will just bloat mildly, stop eating, and eventually the discomfort will ease but severe cases may result in death. Please check your cattle regularly for any signs that something may be wrong.

Contact the extension office if you have any questions or concerns about anything mentioned in this article or about livestock and forages.