Written by Frank Krentz, Arizona Association of Conservation Districts President and Arizona rancher
Some people look out on the range filled with knee high grass and see a beauty that should have been in a Louis L’amore book. People who own cattle look out at the same ground and are thankful that they don’t have to haul hay this season. But as the year marches on so do the issues that come with it. Short season grasses that can’t take intense grazing, annuals are only there for a short time, or a bean crop you hope comes in at just the right time to help feed the herd — all these things are important when trying to figure out how many cattle to house in pasture and for how long.
When asked to give my opinion on grazing, I was happy to help, though I am by no means an expert. I look at how rotational grazing can help manage a herd as well as the land by utilizing what’s available. Sometimes when annuals come in, and you can’t put enough cattle out to pasture, it is far better to move the cattle on out to graze rather than let the grass blow away with the spring winds. Most of the time it is a good idea to graze perennial grasses to a healthy stand in order to promote regrowth, while leaving enough vigor so the perennial grasses can still compete with non-favorable grasses. Several times I have seen a pasture abandoned because it was used too hard one year and after a period of non-use the growth choked out the stand, stagnating new growth. Proper rest and rotation can promote substantial growth and diversity, just as too much rest or grazing will hinder the same.
Just keep in mind, when there is a lot on the table leave a little bit for later.