Have a plan with options, observe closely, and be ready to adjust as needed (originally published for Noble Rancher).
Achieving ideal timing to maximize spring grazing may feel as tedious as Goldilocks’ pursuit of the perfect porridge.
Turn livestock out too soon, and you’re liable to damage future growth. Wait too long, and you risk missing the most productive opportunity of the season.
Getting it just right, Noble Research Institute Ranch Facility Manager Curt Larson says, depends on keen observation, flexibility and responsiveness to your environment.
Larson manages the Oswalt Ranch in south-central Oklahoma. In the decade and a half he’s been there, he has seen and experimented with about every approach to spring grazing.
“We’ve had to change our mentality over the years,” Larson says, pointing back to the days when they would bring in stocker calves, hold them for 45 days on hay until spring green-up arrived, then turn them out to a planted winter-wheat pasture.
The traditional one-steer-per-acre stocking rate usually held true as a regional rule of thumb.
"When cool-season grasses were gone, we would gather and go on to native pastures, then wait for the next warm-season crop of annual grasses to emerge," Larson says.
“Often, either the grass would get ahead of the cattle, or the cattle would get ahead of the grass, one of the two."