Forage grows slowly when the plants are small and have little chlorophyll (in early spring or after grazing has just been completed) and the mass is low. As the leaves get bigger, photosynthesis increases, allowing for faster growth and higher yields.
Before a plant starts to flower, the plant grows as fast as possible, if other factors do not limit it (such as, for example, drought). Once the plant has passed the rapid growth phase, growth will slow down and energy will be diverted to flower and seed production. While the yield is highest, the quality of the crop is low.
The quality of a fodder crop is highest when the plants are vegetative. The vegetation decreases as the plant matures.
The purpose of good grazing management should be to maximize both feed yield and forage crop quality. The best time to graze immediately after the fastest growth phase, but before the blossoming.
As indicated on the right:
Rest is key to growth!
The growth per day is closely related to the required rest time. Plants that are under stress by, for example; drought, cold weather, bad soil fertility or overgrazing will require a longer rest period.
Optimal growing conditions reduce the rest time required.
Keep an eye on the crop when it is best to graze.
It is important when deciding when to go grazing (and how long a field should rest) that you move your animals based on how far the crop is in growth stage. Grazing too early will tire the pasture and deplete the crop, causing plants to disappear and weeds to come up. If grazing is done too late, the crop can become woody, causing it to lose its palatability.
There are times when you purposely want to use shorter rest periods to “weaken” a pasture (e.g., when you would like to overseeding.) or to get a faster regrowth.
There are also times when you could use longer rest periods to build up more root reserves or build up a “stock”.
4 Tips for a good grazing management:
1. Start grazing just before the crop enters the flowering phase.
2. Do not graze more than 50% of the crop, this will immediately start regrowth and preserve the root system.
3. Give smaller pieces at a time, so that the fields are grazed more evenly.
4. Make use of strip-grazing, by “pulsating” grazing, the organic matter will increase fastest in the soil.