conservation

Maximizing Conservation Plantings with Grazing Management

Dan Cattle, Livestock, USDA-NRCS

conservation

While conservation plantings protect various resource concerns, the success of these plantings is dependent on making the right management decisions. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Materials Program wants landowners to know they provide technical assistance on forage management to assist with proper grazing recommendations while addressing other conservation concerns. The James E. “Bud” Smith Plant Materials Center, Knox City, Texas recently evaluated six common warm-season native and introduced grasses used for winter stockpiling.

The trial compared the forage quality and quantity of perennial grasses during the winter months following grazing management practices commonly used. The grazed condition produced more annual forage but less forage for winter grazing as a standing hay crop going into the dormant season.

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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 like improving wildlife habitat, providing protection from soil erosion, and restoring the landscape to native grasslands.

But overall, the study did show 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.