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Pastures Need Time to Recover and Grow

Cows on pasture. Photo credit: Barry Yaremcio

The last two years have been drier than normal. Many pastures were over grazed. Feed yards were empty this spring. As a result, many cows have been turned out to graze much earlier than normal. Plants didn’t have an opportunity to grow sufficiently to replenish root food reserves.

To improve pasture productivity, implementing a rotational grazing system is recommended over a continuous grazing system. For pastures that were grazed early, provide a minimum rest period of 45 to 60 days to allow the plants to recover. New growth should be at the four to five leaf stage prior to animals being turned in for the second grazing. The amount of growth is more important than the number of days between grazing events.

During the rest period, root food reserves are replenished, and new root growth occurs. If growing conditions are good, tillers that emerge from the crown of the plant increases this years’ yield potential. At the same time, the plant also develops vegetative buds. Next spring, some of the buds’ break dormancy which sets the yield potential for that year.

With recent rains in many areas of the province, there is potential for dormant plants to start growing. In some cases, the plants will not be ready to graze until September. The plants will be dormant after a couple frosts, and it is safe to graze at that time. Remove cows from the pasture when there is four to five inches of growth remaining on most plants. Snow will be trapped by the plants and help prevent winter kill.

A good discussion on how plants grow and develop is contained in this link.

For additional information, contact Barry at 403-741-6022 or


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