The time for turn-out to our primary summer pastures is coming soon.  A couple of important questions are — what date to turn-out, and which pastures should be first?

For mixed cool- and warm-season native grass pastures, it is important to allow the cool-season grasses to reach at least a 3-leaf stage. Initial grass growth in the spring comes from energy reserves stored in the roots and crowns of the grass plant.

Grazing too soon could cause a depletion of those reserves and reduce production because there was not enough leaf area present to adequately begin producing energy from photosynthesis. 

We must also remember that the amount of growth at a specific date can vary each year based on spring temperatures and precipitation. When the potential for drought is present, delaying turn-out and continuing to feed hay is recommended. This will allow the grass plants to maximize growth given the current soil moisture conditions, and result in greater season-long production.

When grazing multiple native grass pastures in a rotation, it is beneficial to change the sequence or order of grazing for the set of pastures. This change in the time of grazing each year benefits the overall health and vigor of the grasses.

For producers that have both native range and introduced grass pasture such as smooth bromegrass or crested wheatgrass, grazing the introduced grass pastures first is a great approach to use that resource and allows for a later turn-out on the native pastures.

By Jerry Volesky

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