Mitigating drought risk of pastureland begins in early spring

Extending the life of pastureland can be a main priority for cattle producers, especially in drought years, however, there are some tactics that can be employed to help carry operations through a tough season.

Lorne Klein, a forage specialist who was with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture for the better part of three decades, says that taking advantage of wetter years and strategically rotating pasture to ensure enough rest is being granted to facilitate regrowth are both keys to the longevity and quality of pastureland.

Klein has fine-tuned what he has learned through his time with the ministry and has applied it to his own operation to come up with what for him is an ideal strategy.

“The main strategy that we’re trying to take full advantage of the moisture when it gets to our place, whether it’s in a year or a month. Once you’re already in the drought, it’s too late. So you need to be getting ready, either with stockpiled hay or stockpiled grass, you know, have have some something of abundance so that, you know you’ve got something to fall back on if the plants aren’t growing all summer long,” shares Klein

Having a good stockpile of hay come springtime and supplementing with that feed on pasture can help keep a herd on a particular piece of land longer, subsequently giving other pastures a little extra time to get ahead. In Klein’s specific operation, he has 18 paddocks with two groups of animals, which means that each paddock is being grazed for a maximum of 30 days with the majority only being occupied for 10-14 days.

Allowing pastureland to rest and recover is vitally important to retaining quality pastureland, says Klein as he shares his own strategies for optimum rotational grazing.

“If you go around and around the paddocks four times during the summer, you may as well just open up all the gates. Yeah, so most of the paddocks get grazed only once per year, during the growing season. And the other key thing is, in the month of May, in early May, or late April when the grazing season starts. I have enough hay reserve, that I am not scared to feed my best bales in the month of May on that paddock to stretch that one out, so that we don’t have to get to our second paddock until the first of June,” says Klein.

For those who have hayland and aren’t happy with their annual yield, Klein has tried only haying every second year and has seen some great results from it.

“Our strategy is we hay every second year and you just get so much of a better hay crop as opposed to, driving around it every year. Especially with the price of diesel now, and, and machinery is not low cost. So I would much rather hay field every second year and get something worth cutting. As opposed to half a bale an acre like that,” says Klein.

The forage specialist was in attendance as a guest speaker at Ag in Motion 2022, sharing his findings and answering questions of attendees of the show.

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