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Recommended Pastures for your Livestock Grazing

Improving your livestock grazing is the most important constraints to improve livestock production. For instance: Dairy, Beef and Goat, Piggery and Poultry Production are also related to Animal Nutrition.

Most plant species sown for pastures usually belong to one of the two plant groups: Legumes and grasses.

Legumes are plants with flowers like Caliandra which produce their seeds in pods compared to grasses like Napier that have compound leaves with three or more broad, rounded leaflets.

Most legumes have tap roots that are able to obtain water from deeper in the soils than the roots of fodder grasses.

Legumes are highly valued because they are high in protein and yield well without being fertilized with nitrogen. This is because legumes are able to form a mutually beneficial relationship with Rhizobia bacteria.

In this association, the bacteria which is in the Nodules or swellings on the legume roots are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to their hosts.

By now, am sure you might be interested on the list of those recommended pastures for your livestock’s?

Let’s discuss about that: Below are some of the common but not limited to pastures recommended for your livestock:

Alfalfa, Stylo, Sorghum, Cow-pea, Lablab, Siroto, Desmodium (sliver and green leaf), Cetro, Clitoria ternatea, Chloris ganyana, Panicum maximum, Seteria, Brachiaria, Kikuyu Grass, Hyparhenia Rufa, Sesbania sesban, Caliandra calothyrusus, Gliricidia, Napier / Elephant Grass, Russian Comfrey.

And lastly maize and sweet potato vines commonly known for silage production.

When next you are taking your livestock(s) out for grazing or providing fodder for them, search for any of the listed pastures for the health of your flock.

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As expected, the importance of each kind of feed varies with the type of livestock. Sheep and goats obtain greater than 80 percent of their nutrition from forage, while 73 percent of beef cattle nutrition is from forages. Forages make up 51 percent of horses’ diet. New and changing management practices in the dairy industry allow forage to be anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of a cow’s diet at any time in her life.

Lengthening the grazing season by using practices such as stockpiling forage or planting annuals for forage can greatly reduce production costs for a wide variety of livestock species. To be profitable, producers have an increased dependency on forages, grazing and pastures.

Pastures can be a useful source of forage on property that is unsuitable for other crops. The amount of pasture needed depends on pasture quality, animal size and type, season and species of forage in the pasture.

It is important to consider whether the forage will be used for grazing or hay, what forage species are best suited for the area, and what resources are available in terms of equipment, money, and time. The decision of whether or not to renovate a pasture should be based on existing per centages of the desirable species present in the pasture. The following criteria could be used in such a decision:

  • If the pasture contains 75 per cent or more desirable species, consider not renovating and instead concentrating on management.
  • If the pasture contains 40 to 75 per cent desirable species, consider over-seeding and concentrating on management.
  • If the pasture contains less than 40 per cent desirable species, consider reestablishing.

Establishing a new pasture or renovating an existing pasture usually requires some management to get the forage growing quickly and vigorously. Here are some of the steps involved in establishing or renovating a pasture:

  1. soil testing and correcting soil nutrient deficiencies,
  2. selecting species adapted to the specific area,
  3. implementing the correct seeding method and rate,
  4. implementing a weed control program, and
  5. using proper management to maintain a productive stand.

According to research, here are seven (7) ways you can make your Livestock pasture healthier

1. Get serious about soil health

The right grasses can’t grow without healthy soil. Healthier soil can also yield better-quality grasses and legumes, which means healthier cattle. You can keep your soil in good shape by keeping it living. Invest in good irrigation and make sure there’s living roots in the soil, no matter what the season. One of the most important tips for good soil is to keep it covered. Exposure robs your soil of moisture, so make sure you tackle those bare ground areas.

2. Don’t guess on soil health – test it

How can you tell whether the soil is healthy? While you may have a rural sixth sense, you can actually send your soil in for testing for the highest degree of accuracy. Once you have the numbers, you can try lime, fertilizer or any other amendments as needed.

If you’re planting grasses, you need a lower soil pH level. If you have a mix of both but are leaning more heavily towards legumes, stay away from fertilizers with a nitrogen base. These types of fertilizers will cause your grasses to grow, making your legumes struggle.

3. Be a good manager by planning and timing grazing right

As a rancher, you know you need to plan ahead. You’ll need to plan what you’ll be planting, where you’ll be putting your cattle to graze, and what you need to take care of every season. A good organizational system and some advanced planning will keep things flowing smoothly.

4. Think carefully about the seeds you plant

Most cattle pastures are a mix of legumes and grasses, but what mix and seeds are best for your cattle? If hay is a concern, Ladino clover (white) or red clover are good choices. Alfalfa is also a good choice if hay is your key concern. Take a look at the numbers from your soil test and think about your climate to decide what would grow best on your land.

There’s no shortage of advice out there, so consider the varieties and species carefully. Once you’ve made your picks, be sure to use certified seeds to prevent any surprises. When planting, use good quality sticking agents and inoculants. During planting, make sure the seeds make contact with the soil.

5. Reduce cover

Bare soil is bad, but excessive cover and vegetation prevents seeds from making contact with the soil. Grasses, especially, can dwarf legumes, so make sure your cattle start grazing soon.

6. Control weeds

Fast-growing weeds can drain nutrients from other plants, compete with your grasses and legumes, and can block out the sun when they shoot up — meaning the seeds you’ve planted will suffer. There are solutions out there for every weed under the sun, so identify what plant pests are trying to gain a foothold and act quickly.

7. Pay attention to the seasons

Ever since the first cattle farmers set up their fields, seasons have played a major role in farming. Unless you’re planting alfalfa, plant in late winter so seeds get covered during freeze and thaw. During the growing season, use a rest and rotation grazing system or a rotation grazing system to keep cattle fed and to keep grasses and vegetation cover from getting out of control.

Ideally, you want your legumes at 3-4 inches at first and then give them a few weeks to get established. Once they’re established, keep rotation ongoing to maintain healthy growth.

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