Prevent Pasture Damage During Wet Weather

It might seem odd to be thinking about preventing damage to pastures from  wet weather in mid- to late summer, but heavy, persistent rains across some portions of the country in July are posing potential problems.

In the worst case scenario, cattle can be moved to a sacrifice area and fed stored feeds until pasture soil returns to acceptable conditions, says David Hartman, a livestock Extension educator with Pennsylvania State University. “The area should eventually be repaired with tillage if necessary and then reseeded to either an annual or perennial mixture, depending on your goals,” he says.

The other key is to move cattle more frequently during wet weather. Some farmers prefer grouping cattle into a high stocking density area to contain damage to a small area. Others prefer to spread cattle out over a larger area. “Regardless of [your] management decision, moving cattle more frequently than usual helps to avoid or reduce the concentration of damage,” says Hartman.

He also urges farmers to maintain heavy sod conditions to withstand grazing pressure. Keeping stands thick might involve over-seeding, soil testing and maintaining adequate fertility and avoiding overgrazing, he says.

Using no-till seed establishment is generally recommended. “Cattle traffic during wet weather will be much less damaging on land that has been planted no-till versus with tillage,” Hartman says.

“Finally, good grazing management should always include leaving a considerable amount of residual forage when moving cattle to the next paddock,” he says. “Overgrazed pastures not only recover more slowly from grazing during droughty conditions, they also sustain more damage from grazing in wet conditions.”

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