Spring is here and the pastures are greening up but how soon should you start grazing? That depends on several factors.
The first decision is whether you want to use the area to get the most forage off of it this grazing season or will the area be used as only an exercise area for the animals and the majority of their food is supplemented from another source. If it is only an exercise area, you can graze animals anytime. If it will be used for maximum production, then grazing should be delayed until the grass is 6-8 inches tall. This can range from April 15 to May 15 for cool season grasses depending on the part of the state you are located. If the pasture was grazed close last year or was stressed by drought, then grazing should be delayed longer.
Grass stores its reserves in the roots and the leaves are the factories. The leaves utilize the sun and soil nutrients to produce more leaves and roots. If the plant starts growing and most of the leaves are removed when the plant is young, the plant can’t grow more leaves if the root reserves are depleted. Never remove more than half of the leaves and allow the plants to rest and recover after it has been grazed for a period. This is why rotational grazing of several areas can increase the total production of the field.