Walt Fick, Grazing Season Options

Walt Fick) I’m Walt Fick; I’m an Extension Range Land Management Specialist here at Kansas State University housed here in Manhattan. Today I wanted to visit with you a little bit about as we start into the grazing season maybe the various options producers have in terms of different grazing systems they might use. One of the older systems is simply what we call either continuous or season-long grazing. They may start putting animals out around the first or middle of May depending on that part of state and then they just leave them out there in the individual pasture for the grazing season, which for a cow/calf producer that might be to the end of October, maybe six months of grazing. Stocker producer, that’s going to run season long, maybe five months, let’s say May 1 to September 30th would be common, but there are others – many other systems. One of them that’s used here in the Flint Hills has been called intensive early stocking or double stocking as sometimes referred to where, again, we put on 5-600 pounds animals and, again, early, southern part of the Flint Hills maybe April 15th even but May 1 let’s say, but they come off middle of the summer, July 15th to the 1st August range. So they’re only out there half the season but there are twice as many animals. That takes advantage of the higher quality that we have in the early season. If we get late summer rains, we get forage production occurrence so would help carry fire the next year which is important, again, for the livestock aims on those stockers. There are various kinds of rotation grazing systems. They vary from maybe just a simple two pasture system or somebody might graze a pasture the first half the season and then switch to another pasture and then the next year they usually – they start off in the pasture they left in the fall. What that does is it allows late summer rest every other year then in those pastures. That’s critically important for the vigor of our warm season grasses and then we’ve got three, four, five pasture systems, what I would call management intensive system, might have eight pastures or paddocks and those people will probably be moving their livestock fairly quickly early in the season when plant growth is high, maybe every day or two for a month. Then as plant growth slows down then they start slowing down the rotation. We have people doing that. The extreme case of what I would call a management intensive system would be what we call mob grazing where in those cases they may not start grazing until maybe you have a couple of feet of growth because you got to have, if you’ve put out hundreds of thousands of pounds of animal weight on an acre, they’ve got to have something to eat, so it’s very quick, like they usually graze it pretty well off, but then they probably aren’t going to return to that pasture that season. They just have a number that they can move around, that’s kind of an extreme case and there’s a few people practicing that. I think that the grazing systems that are used in state do very little bit with depending on whether you’re here on eastern part of the state where we have higher rainfall versus out west. Most of the research that’s been done on grazing work has been done either here in Manhattan, Dr. Clenton Owensby is a person who’s been doing that for years and he’s been kind of rotating between systems on a given pasture. Rather than using the same system year after year, he’s rotating. Right now, I know he’s using intensive early stocking. Takes the animals off and then the next year, he double stocks it again but he leaves half the animals in those pastures for the remainder of the season. He’s been doing that for several years and that’s been a fairly economic system, the prairie seems to be holding up under that system as well. But that’s probably maybe better adapted to the eastern part. Other research that’s being done over the years in Kansas it has been done out of Hays, that’s one of our western Kansas ag-research center at Hays. Doctor Keith Harmoney there is working mostly with cow/calf but they’ve done some stocker research as well, where we found out the double stocking system works here…in western Kansas it doesn’t work as well. The cattle don’t grain as much and it seems to have more of a negative effect on the composition.

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