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Soil Health

Posted by Teresa Steckler - Pasture

I just spoke at the "Principle & Practices of Adaptive Grazing" pasture walk hosted by The Pasture Project in Creal Springs. Dr. Allen Williams spoke about grazing practices and principles to improve soil health then we toured the pasture. Regardless of the pasture talk I attend, I learn something new.

Dr. Williams and the Pasture Project promote an adaptive grazing system. From their website: The system is highly flexible that allows the grazier to adjust daily to conditions. The farm is divided into multiple paddocks with temporary fencing built to a size appropriate to the nutritional needs of the livestock and how long they will be there. Stocking densities vary widely depending on conditions and the needs of the grazier.

Here are a few key take aways from the pasture walk and Dr. Williams talk:

1. Pasture/soil management in South Carolina resulted the development of new soil! They also interseeded a cover crop into their corn when it was around a foot tall so that after removal of the corn for silage, the crop was already there, sprouted and waiting for sunlight.

2. Water infiltration was vastly improved.

3. More and better forages for the livestock.

4. Weed control - which goes hand in hand with point number 4.

5. Improved soil health - earthworms, increased aggregation,

6. Soil loss control

7. One does not have to use a herbicide to kill off a cover crop.

I would encourage you to visit the site pastureproject.org to learn more about how to improve your pasture health and improve the forage quality. These are key for cattle grazing.

Consider the following: I spoke to a colleague in Missouri (which has experienced a drought this summer and many cattlemen have no pastures left). One person who practices rotational grazing was able to extend the time before having to feed hay - unlike his counter parts.

We all know that the cow can harvest her own forage much cheaper than using machinery to bale. Would it not be great to extend your grazing season 30-60 days and/or increase the number of cows and/or decrease the weed pressure in your pasture (if there)?


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