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Illinois Livestock Trail by UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION


Pasture
Illinois Livestock Trail
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Extending Pastures
by Justin Sexten, Extension Specialist Animal Systems/Beef


Extended periods of dry weather combined with higher than average temperatures have caused many beef producers to begin looking for ways to extend pastures. Early-weaning calves is one method of extending pastures that offers producers the advantages of reducing cow nutrient requirements by a third and eliminating calf pasture consumption. Feeding early weaned calves is also a more efficient use of feed resources than feeding the cow to support the calf. If early-weaning is not feasible in your operation consider utilizing creep feed to provide supplemental nutrients to the calf while reducing pasture consumption. Drawbacks to early weaning and creep feeding include increased cost associated with feeding and management of calves and the potential for reducing future milk production of replacement heifer calves due to increased body weight gain.

Good pasture management will also help extend pastures. By subdividing pastures into paddocks and rotationally grazing, producers can increase seasonal pasture utilization by 50%. Continuous grazing or using only one pasture utilizes 30-35% of the available forage over a growing season whereas rotationally grazing the same area using 3 to 7 paddocks and moving cattle once a week can increase seasonal utilization to 45-55%. Another key to extending pastures is to leave a minimum of 3-4 inches of forage in the pasture; this will help pastures recover quicker when adequate moisture is present.


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