Our winter forage crops are looking good so far on the east side of the county. This pasture is a blend of oats and rye. It was planted the first week of October. This is before it became very dry. It was after this that growers had to wait until next rainfall. So, there was a downtime of establishment. It’s tillering now and growing tall. The cows are soon to be brought over to graze. This field is ready to graze. UGA Extension Forage Agronomist Dr. Dennis Hancock talks about the “art” of grazing in not grazing too early:
In general, the earlier one starts grazing, the more damage will be done to the pasture’s growth potential. It is a function of the growth curve. In that early stage (lag phase), when growth is slow or just beginning to get going good, grazing can essentially stop growth or slow it to a crawl. It is like a bank account with some principal in it. The more principal one has, the more growth in the account one will get. The growth rate is like compounding interest. Grass grows grass. Take away principal (grass), and the amount of growth will decrease.
So, that’s enough professor talk… Practically speaking, one really shouldn’t start grazing until there is at least 1800-2500 lbs of DM/acre, though I would wait a little later on oats as they’ll slow growing in December (particularly if it becomes very cold). For rye, that would be about 5-6 inches. For ryegrass, I’d wait until it is at least 6 inches. For oats, I’d wait until it is about 6-8 inches. The ideal would be to only graze it a little… removing just what it’s average growth rate is and maintaining at least 1500-1800 lbs DM/acre. This is why I am a BIG fan of timed (limit) grazing.
Remember… don’t be too quick to graze. Grazing too early can cost one more in the long run.