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MANAGING PROFITABLE PASTURES

Before investing any money into your grazing operation, get out pencil and paper and develop some goals and a plan to reach them. Without written goals and plans, you won't know where you're going or how to get there. A written plan is more likely to be followed and it's easy to forget about your plan while running day-to-day operations.

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WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

  • Are you trying to increase animal numbers?
  • Decrease feed costs?
  • Background more steers?
  • Develop replacement heifers?
  • Increase paddock numbers?
  • Wean heavier calves?
  • Develop more grazing land?

Before buying seed

  • • Is the seed certified?

  • • Is it a proven performer in research and on farm trials?

  • • Is it adaptable to the climate and soil of your area?

  • • Will it produce under your management?

  • • Will it have a reasonably long life (for permanent pastures)?

  • • What is its nutritional value?

  • • Is it palatable?

  • • Is it grazing tolerant?

  • • Will it be compatible with other species (if used in mixtures)?

  • • Is it disease and insect resistant or tolerant (if available)?

tips to A Successful Pasture

  • • Write a goal for each pasture and a plan to reach that goal.

  • • Soil test and add fertility based on the test results.

  • • Identify weeds and a strategy for control.

  • • Add a legume such as white or red clover, alfalfa or lespedeza.

  • • Design cross fencing to be flexible for water, feed and shade locations.

  • • Adjust stocking rate to harvest available forage in short grazing periods (1-3 days) and then rest (21-30 days).

  • • Know how much forage to expect from your pasture and when it will produce it.

Grazing Management Tips

  • • Cull old cows, poor-producing cows and open cows. It takes just as much feed to overwinter a cull

  • cow as a producing cow.

  • • Begin the winter period with cows in good body condition and bring them through the winter with enough

  • nutrition to successfully calve, rebreed, and wean heavy calves.

  • • Economizing and skimping are not the same. Don't eliminate necessary inputs for short-term savings that

  • will result in increased costs later.

  • • Are your replacement heifers worth feeding through the winter? It may be cheaper to buy replacement

  • heifers next spring.

  • • Feed dry cows, cows with calves, and lactating heifers separately.

  • • Have your hay tested. Balance a ration that matches animal needs.

  • • Look for local sources of harvest residues or food processing by-products to feed.

  • • Use hay feeder rings, or unroll bales and feed under temporary fence to reduce waste.

  • • Feed supplements away from feeder rings to distribute cattle loafing areas.

  • • Strip graze stockpiled tall fescue as a protein source for dry pregnant cows. Strip grazing reduces trampling

  • damage and increases utilization.

  • • Feed your best hay last to provide nutrition for spring-calving cows during the critical period between winter

  • feeding and spring grazing.

  • • Leaving at least 4 inches of residue after grazing will produce nearly one ton more forage per acre per year

  • than leaving less than 4 inches.

  • • Annual grasses need to reach a height of at least 8 to 10 in. before being grazed. Leave at least 3 to 4 inches

  • of leaf. Closer grazing will cause poor yields and increase winter kill.

  • • Turning out too soon on cool-season grasses in the spring will delay spring forage growth.

  • • Unroll round bales on spring pasture to increase hay consumption and slow rate of passage of succulent spring

  • growth.

  • • Move cows frequently so they are top grazing spring growth to lengthen the period of quality forage

  • production.

  • • Good animal genetics will only produce if given the opportunity.

Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish. For example, you may save $50 per acre by purchasing a cheaper, lower performing variety, but if you give up 75 lbs.  in weaning weights per year, you'll lose nearly $10,000 per acre over the life of a 15 year stand.

Cost of quarter mile of fence (Iowa State University)

  • • 48" woven wire, one barb $1.07/foot

  • • 5 barbed wire fence $0.83/foot

  • • High tensile 8 strand 12.5 gauge $0.76/foot

  • • High tensile 5 strand electric(12.5) $0.57/foot

  • • Polywire fence(interior use only) $0.03/foot

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