Small Acreage Management:
Pasture/Range Management Resources
Colorado Forage Guide
Produced to help small acreage landowners become familiar with livestock forage and grazing management. Information is provided on how grasses differ, what legumes are and how they can fit into pastures, and what to consider if you need to revegetate your pasture, including how to design your own seed mix. The section on grazing management will help you know what to look for and expect before, during, and after your pastures are grazed. Because grazing is an ongoing learning process, this information will complement your own experiences and the advice of others, such as Colorado State University Extension (CSU Extension), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and neighbors. Download guide.
Too many weeds and not enough grass?
Proper grazing techniques can produce greener and more forageable pastures or rangeland. This simple technique involves allowing grass time to regrow between grazing intervals, and avoiding overgrazing. Pasture management will reduce weeds by maintaining healthy vegetation. The roots of the desired forbs, grasses and shrubs will out-compete weeds.
Why will grazing management produce more forage?
|Animals will seek out the most palatable forage in a pasture. If animals are allowed to continuously graze an area, they will re-graze and re-graze the most palatable and succulent re-growth rather than eating more mature plants. Eventually, the most valued grasses will disappear and undesirable weeds will flourish.|
A continuously grazed dryland pasture versus a managed dryland pasture
Continuous grazing is hard on plants, using up their root reserves and slowing their recovery. This picture shows how grass roots are affected by overgrazing. The plant on the right has been continuously grazed while the plant on the left has been grazed for a short period and allowed to recover and regrow for a longer period.
General Grazing Guidelines
Realize that the amount of forage animals eat can not exceed half of the plant production in your pasture. Keep animals in a barn or in a small sacrifice area. Only allow limited grazing and exercise time in the pasture to reduce overgrazing. Try these simple grazing management techniques for healthier grass:
- Learn about the dominant forbs, grasses, and shrubs in your pasture or rangeland. Determine if the plants are warm or cool season. Cool season grasses grow in the spring and fall, while warm season grasses grow in the heat of the summer.
- Graze for short periods of time (7-10 days) and allow long re-growth periods (70-120 days) where the grass has time to recover with no grazing stress. Designate a small sacrifice area or corral to keep animals while grasses are recovering.
- Allow grass to reach the proper height in inches before grazing. This will enable your grass to build strong roots for vigorous photosynthesis and growth. Click here to learn more about proper grazing heights for specific forage species.
- Know when to remove your animals from an area. A rule of thumb is Take Half Leave Half. Never allow the grass to be grazed below a protective height.
- If you have limited acres of pasture, always supplemental feed before putting animals on pasture. This will reduce the amount of pasture plants eaten.
- Walk your pastures and monitor grass growth. Be flexible. Temperature and precipitation will vary from year to year, as will grass recovery time.
- Develop a grazing plan with help from your local NRCS and CSU Extension.
How can I make the most of my pasture or rangeland?
Establishing a rotational grazing system will allow you to make the most of your grass. Rotational grazing is defined as a practice in which 2 or more pastures are alternately rested and grazed in a planned sequence. The system at an intensive management level provides 70-120 days of rest periods followed by 7-10 days of grazing. Temporary fencing can be set-up to create smaller paddocks within a large pasture. Ten or more pastures are recommended per heard to create a high-intensity system.
CSU Fact Sheets
University of Wyoming presents some basic principles of good grazing management that will help keep your cool season grass pastures healthy.
How do I establish grasses for pasture or rangeland?
- If you currently have a poor pasture or rangeland, consider invigorating your land with grazing management and weed control before thinking about replanting.
- Realize that establishing grass can take 2 to 5 years before animals are able to graze on it. Warm season grasses are native to Colorado and take much longer to become established than native cool season grasses.
- Contact your local NRCS and CSU Extension office to determine the appropriate seed mixtures and seeding methods for your area and soil type.
- In general, prior to planting, you will have to get the weeds under control by planting a cover crop and/or spraying at least one year before planting.
SAM Newsletter Articles
- First Steps to Identifying Grasses on Your Property - spring 2013
- Drought Calls for Change in Grazing – winter 2013
- Grass Seeding – fall 2012
- How to Assess Hay for Quality – fall 2012
- High Nitrates in Drought Stressed forage – fall 2012
- Grasshoppers –spring 2012
- Winter Grazing – winter 2012
- Cover Crops Help in Dryland Grass Establishment – winter 2012
- Fall Irrigation for Cool Season Grasses – summer 2011
- Going Native – summer 2011
- Early Weed Detection for Better Management – winter 2011
- Pasture Grasses – fall 2010
- Grass Tidbits – summer 2010
- Pasture Use and Rotational Grazing Systems – spring 2010
- Basics of Dryland Grass Establishment – winter 2010
- Animal Grazing Habits – winter 2010
- Fall Pasture Management – summer 2009
- Temporary Fencing – winter 2009
- Pasture Management During and After Drought - April 30, 2013
- Pasture Management on Small Acreages
- Renovating and Reseeding your Pasture
- Understanding Soil Sampling on Small Acreages
- Biological Weed Control for Colorado Landowners
- Poisonous Plants and Horses
- Poisonous Plants of Colorado
- Common Forage Grasses
- Understanding Weeds
- Integrated Weed Management
- Planning for a Sustainable Homestead
Guide to Planning on Your Property
More Info on Pasture/Range Management
Updated Thursday, May 23, 2013