Grazing cattle during periods of wet weather can damage pasture stands and soil structure. Although some damage is expected, there are management practices that can help avoid or at least reduce some of the potential for damage.
1. Have a sacrifice area. Having a sacrifice area can help prevent damage to permanent pastures, especially if the wet weather conditions become very prolonged.
Cattle can be moved to the sacrifice area and fed stored feeds until pasture soil returns to an acceptable condition. As should be done with winter sacrifice areas, the area should eventually be repaired with tillage, if necessary, and then reseeded to either an annual or perennial mixture, depending on your goals.
2. Move cattle around. Moving cattle more frequently during wet weather can help avoid excessive damage, but managers have different opinions on how to handle this.
Some managers prefer grouping cattle into a high stocking density to contain damage to a small area. Others prefer allowing cattle to spread out into a lower stocking density.
Regardless of management decision, moving cattle more frequently than usual helps to avoid or reduce the concentration of damage.
3. Understand the soils. This is important from many perspectives. Planning for what to do in case of very wet weather might include moving cattle to a well-drained paddock if that is possible.
Using no-till whenever possible has many benefits. When establishing pasture, especially when planting a temporary pasture of annual plant species, cattle traffic during wet weather will be much less damaging on land that has been planted no-till vs. tillage.
Maintaining a heavy sod will increase pasture density, which in turn will increase grazing days and forage yields. From the perspective of severe wet weather, a heavy sod will support cattle better and will lessen soil damage. Keeping the stands thick involves overseeding, soil testing, maintaining adequate fertility and avoiding overgrazing.
4. Watch species selection. Species selection plays a role in how resilient a pasture will be during severe wet weather.
Although grazers need to make species selections based on other important criteria, having pastures with tall fescue or reed canarygrass could be advantageous, as these species are known to be able to tolerate more damage during wet weather.
5. Don’t overgraze. Good grazing management should always include leaving a considerable amount of residual forage when moving cattle to the next paddock.
Overgrazed pastures not only recover more slowly from grazing in drought conditions, they also sustain more damage from grazing in wet conditionsSource: Penn State University, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.