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Better grazing Q & A

University of Arkansas's Shane Gadberry, John Jennings, and Tom Troxel, along with Bill Hopkin from the Utah Grazing Improvement Association, fielded questions from farmers and ranchers at a 2012 Cattle Industry Convention seminar. Here's a sampling.

Q: What is the most important thing beef producers can do to improve grazing management?

A: “Have a shorter and more defined calving season. If you get all cows in the same stage of production, it opens doors to efficiencies in nutrition, disease management, and forage utilization,” says Troxel.

“Cull cows that don't breed back. Don't feed nonproducers,” says Gadberry.

“Have a yearlong forage plan. Ask yourself what you have in each season for grazing and how it matches the needs of your herd,” says Jennings.

“On public grazing lands, we need to better manage the time and intensity of grazing. Hay is killing ranchers; it's $200 a ton. Learn how to use less – or no – hay,” says Hopkin.

Q: What are key things to monitoring in pasture performance?

A: “Watch changes in pastures from season to season and what cows look like. We graze calves first for the better forage, then follow with dry cows to eat what's left. Calves have higher nutrient requirements,” says Gadberry.

“Diligently manage time of grazing. You lose production by grazing too long. You don't hurt the land as much as you hurt animal productivity,” says Hopkin.

“Do a forage inventory of fields and know what's there. Walk across the pasture and tally up what you see at the end of your toe on every fifth step. Do that all the way across a field and list grasses, legumes, and weeds you have. Follow your progress from year to year,” says Jennings.

“Soil-test and forage-test pastures. Then body-score the cows. You'll know if your plan is working,” says Troxel.

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