Significant benifits include:
1. increase enterprise diversity.
2. reduce soil erosion from water runoff and wind.
3. improved wildlife habitat for nesting and shelter
4. improved water quality.
5. improved agricultural sustainability
Good pasture management is not simple. It involves manageing the interrelationships among animals,
plants, and soil.
The animals influence the plants, the plants influence the animals, and both influence the overall farm/ranch.
A pasture should contain at least 1 grass and a legume.
Grass crops for grazing or forage consist of two types.
1. Cool-season Grasses: Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass, and timothy.
2. Warm-season Grasses: Switchgrass, big bluestem, and sudangrass.
Such as alfalfa, white & Red clovers, and birdsfoot trefoil, generally are less influenced by seasonal
temperature than grasses and produce growth more uniformly throughout the growing season.
Renovating and Establishing Pastures
The following information provides guidelines for several
pasture seeding options. Some are more appropriate for minor, low-cost improvement, others are for when significant changes
FROST SEEDING is a method where legume or grass seed is surface broadcast in
late winter or very early spring onto an existing pasture. Late winter freeze-thaw cycles and early spring rainfall improve
the seed-to-soil contact.
INTERSEEDING involves using a seeding drill (we recommend this pratice.
It'll save on seed and money!) to plant a legume (alfalfa) or a more productive grass into an existing pasture. Interseeding
is most effective in low productivity pastures. If successful, interseeding offers the opportunity to double or
triple your forage production in normally low-yielding pastures and hay fields. This most common practice on our
farm can be done either in the spring (April - May) or late summer (mid-August).
Most importantly though, before you even buy your seed for the proposed pasture or hay field, test
you soils at least a year ahead. If needed, apply lime and fertilizers the previous growing season. If interseeding
an existing pasture, graze closely the fall before seeding.
How to start a rotational grazing program with minimal spending!
If possible, check aerial photos of your farm/ranch to determine the best design for 8 - 10
If your farm has been in your family for a few generations, you can bet at some point there
was an aerial photo taken. It's probably up in your attic!
Make your paddocks large enough so that you can figure approx. 60% of the grass will be consumed
by a cow-calf pair in 2 - 3 weeks. That relates to approx. 3 acres be pair or 6 acres a month.
Daily gain should be approx. 2 - 2.3 pounds. If you have good forages that won't be a
Most importantly, talk to your neighboring farmers or local extension agent to find out what
has been successful in your area. Alot of research has been and continues to be done on
There is plenty of info. out there, all you have to do is ask!
Help With Dryland Pastures Available
A newly revised book from Montana State University (MSU) Extension
helps ranchers develop seeding plans for dryland pastures. "Dryland Pastures in Montana and Wyoming" is written by specialists
from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and MSU and University of Wyoming Extension.
The 32-page book covers
native and introduced grasses, forbs and shrubs, including the various soils and precipitation zones where they are adapted.
Additional tables include data on common cultivar differences within each plant species.
The book also contains advice
on preparing seedbeds, planting techniques, seeding rates, timing of plantings, fertilizer, stand establishment and grazing
To order Extension Bulletin 0019, send $2/copy to MSU Extension Publications, PO Box 172040, Bozeman,
MT 59717-0240. For credit card orders, call 406/994-3273. The book can be previewed at: www.montana.edu/wwwpb/pubs/eb19.html .