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Optimize summer grazing for drought

Optimize summer grazing for drought

By Andi Anderson

Getting the first cutting of hay done this year was challenging in many areas. Forages matured earlier than usual due to an early spring, and weather conditions varied widely, with some areas experiencing timely rains and others facing dry spells.

Despite these challenges, most hay fields with good fertility yielded well, except for those in dry regions.

This variability highlights the importance of having a contingency plan to minimize the impact of unforeseen events on livestock health, pasture productivity, and overall farm profitability.

One key strategy is to maintain good soil cover, which protects the soil from erosion, retains moisture, and keeps the soil cooler. When grazing tall cool-season forages like orchard grass and fescue, ensure at least four inches of residual are left behind.

Warm-season forages benefit from even more residual cover.

If dry conditions persist, continuous grazing can harm future forage yield. In such cases, move livestock to a dry lot and feed hay until moisture returns and regrowth is sufficient for grazing.

This approach, as seen during the drought of 2012, helps pastures recover quickly once rains return, ensuring better forage availability in the long term.

Warm-season perennial grasses like big bluestem, Indian grass, or switchgrass are good additions to a grazing system. These grasses are more drought-tolerant than cool-season forages and help maintain grazing during dry periods.

Financial assistance programs are available to help establish these forages; contact your local soil and water conservation office for more information.

By implementing a contingency plan, you can maximize the grazing season rather than just individual grazing events. Keep an eye on forages, weather patterns, and soil cover to ensure your grazing plant is resilient against drought conditions.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-tlillico

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Categories: Ohio, General, Weather

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