Farms utilize pasture to lessen stored forage demand during the spring and summer months, when quantity may be limited. But, how many dairy producers can say they manage pastures to their fullest potential?

"Management of the correct forage or mixture of forages is ultimately the foundation to a successful pasture-based dairy or one trying to stretch stored forages until after the new harvest," says Cynthia Martel, Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent, Franklin County.

In the April 2013 issue of Dairy Pipeline, Martel summarizes key points made during a grazing presentation at the recent Virginia State Feed Association Convention and Nutritional Management "Cow College." Here are a few key points:

  • With any forage or legume there are periods of high and low growth. Planting mixtures that cover the highs and lows will allow the pasture to remain greener and fuller longer.
  • Which mixtures to plant and graze depends upon several underlying aspects, such as forage quality, soil environment, hardiness, drought tolerance and management.
  • Most cool-season grasses may be grazed at 6 to 8 inches high, whereas tall warm-season grasses should be grazed at 10 to 14 inches.
  • Planting species that will adapt to your soil environment is an important aspect for quality forage growth since drought tolerance and soil fertility range between species.


Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension Dairy Pipeline, April 2013