Getting the Most From Pastures

— Written By and last updated by
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

Livestock producers, be it cattle, horses, sheep, or goats, should think of themselves as forage producers as well. Increasing forage in the diet reduces feed costs and increases potential yield per animal. And in reality, it is an input that the producer can manage himself to minimize concentrate purchases. By maximizing forage utilization, producers are increasing organic matter and can improve nitrogen levels found in the soil. In turn, this sustainable practice reduces surface water runoff and slows or prevents the leaching of nutrients and forage-covered fields need less fertilizer and they protect soil year-round.

Spring allows producers a good opportunity to assess fields and create a working plan that is economical and increases or protects the fertility of the land. Sound pasture management enables livestock to graze on pasture for more days of the year, reducing supplemental feed costs. The first step toward increasing days on pasture should be to implement a rotational grazing system, which will allow pastures time to recover. With two (or more) pastures, producers are then able to rotate animals back and forth, which ultimately increase the fertility of the soil by allowing the empty pasture to replenish itself. In recent years, producers have been grazing livestock on alternative pasture such as wooded areas, swampy spaces, and even weedy overgrown thickets with mobile flocks of sheep or goats using portable electric fencing.

Producers interested in better managing forage should consider the following:

·       Follow sound planting practices. It is imperative to establish strong stands of forage, using high quality seed of proven varieties and timely planting.

·       Soil test. Inexpensive soil tests tell farmers how to best use lime, phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen top dressings. This improves yield, quality, and stand life, and it also reduces weed problems. Anything less, is just a guess,

·       Nutritional needs. Cattle, horses and goats all have different nutritional needs. These variations are further impacted by the age and use of the animal. Weight gain, lactation, and pregnancy require pasture with high levels of nutrients. Producers should always try to match the forage base to the animals’ requirements.

·       Stocking rates. Grazing the right number of animals is extremely important to short- and long-term grazing success. Overgrazing only leads to problems.

·       Pasture alternatives. Consider grazing animals on crop residues (corn, soybean), small grains, hayfields, and even turnips and other brassicas.

·       Legumes. Use legumes as much as possible. Examine each field individually, assessing its potential for legumes, either as an introduction or enhancement planting.

·       Reduce hay usage. Farm efficiency can be measured through use of stored hay. This expensive input should be as low as possible, reducing winter feeding costs and indicating strong forage management. Additionally, producers should reduce waste of hay, and concentrates further contributing to the bottom line.

·       Invest time. Your investment of time and management is necessary for a grazing program to be successful. Put in the time and you will reap the rewards.