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Maximizing Conservation Plantings with Grazing Management

Grazing Management of Stockpiled Forage

Image showing the differences between grazed versus un-grazed in comparison in evaluation plots.Conservation plantings protect various resource concerns, but the success of these plantings is dependent on making the right management decisions. The USDA NRCS Plant Materials Program provides technical assistance on forage management to assist producers and field offices with proper grazing recommendations while addressing other conservation concerns. 

The James E. “Bud” Smith Plant Materials Center, Knox City, Texas evaluated six common warm-season native and introduced grasses used for winter stockpiling in North-Central Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. The grasses evaluated were ‘Alamo’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), ‘San Marcos’ eastern gam‚Äčagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides (L.) L.), ‘Lometa’ Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash), ‘Selection 75’ kleingrass (Panicum coloratum L.), ‘W.W.-B. Dahl’ old world bluestem [Bothrichloa bladhii (Retz) S.T. Blake], and OK Select Germplasm little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash).

The trial compared the forage quality and quantity of perennial grasses during the winter months following grazing management practices commonly used in the Texas Rolling Red Plains. The evaluation compared grazing deferment the entire growing season (ungrazed) to spring grazing followed by deferment during the summer and fall months (grazed).

Image of a healthy pasture.The grazed condition produced more annual forage (Figure 1 below), but less forage for winter grazing as a standing hay crop going into the dormant season. For example, ‘Lometa’ Indaingrass produced over 10,000 lb/acre forage during the growing season, but only 2,400 lb/acre was available as a stockpiled crop during the winter months (Figure 2 below).

Forage quality generally decreased under both management practices during the winter months, but crude protein and digestibility were slightly higher following early season grazing. These warm-season grasses increase plant diversity in range and pasture plantings while performing other valuable services such as improving wildlife habitat, providing protection from soil erosion, and restoring the landscape to native grasslands.

Image of cattle crazing in a healthy green warm season grasses pasture with trees on the horizon.The study showed with proper summer grazing management, producers can maximize the quantity and quality of warm season grasses and provide a suitable winter stockpiled forage. Contact your local NRCS field office for recommendations for forages and/or developing a prescribed grazing plan for your operation.

 

 

 

For More Information 

Winter Stockpiling of Warm Season Grasses in North-Central Texas and Southwestern Oklahoma (PDF; 184 KB) C.B. Carr 2018. USDA-NRCS James E. "Bud" Smith Plant Materials Center. Knox City, Texas.June 2018. 7p. (ID# 13352). 

 

Figure 1 Image of Comparison of grazing management of Warm Season Grasses bar chart
Fig. 2 image of three charts showing Forage Production and Availability, Crude Protein, Digestibility of 'Lometa' Indiangrass by management practice.