Procedure 4

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Stop grazing before pasture regrowth potential is affected

Guidelines to cease grazing

In pasture-based grazing systems, ceasing to graze a paddock is a critical procedure to prevent under- or overgrazing and the associated impact on stock productivity, pasture regrowth and resource management.

Good pasture management ensures adequate rest and regrowth

Correctly timing the cessation of grazing is critical to both efficiency of pasture utilisation and stock performance. Tool 3.6 helps to implement a plant-based approach to grazing management and defines the lower pasture mass limit for cattle.

Timing when to stop grazing is critical to pasture and animal productivity

  • Use the MLA Pasture Ruler (see Tool 3.1) to measure pasture height and convert it to herbage mass. As a guide, the preferred pasture mass for stopping grazing on improved perennial pastures is 1,000kg DM/ha, depending on pasture type and season (see Tool 3.2 and Tool 3.3). At this level, pasture recovers rapidly and overgrazing or patch grazing is avoided.
  • Rest native pastures at critical times depending on the grasses present, their characteristics and the annual rainfall pattern.
  • The management principles and special requirements of native-based and improved perennial pastures are presented in 'Chapter 6: Making the most of native pastures' and 'Chapter 7: Improved perennial pastures' of Towards Sustainable Grazing: The Professional Producer’s Guide.
  • For more information on grazing management of grass and clover-based pastures, go to www.mla.com.au for fact sheets on pastures, weeds and grazing management. See Tool 3.4 for a list of relevant Tips & Tools factsheets available from MLA.

Overgrazing affects rate of pasture regrowth, composition and persistence

Repeatedly stopping grazing too late (overgrazing) can have the following consequences.

  • Grass carbohydrate reserves and legume leaf area are decreased and the rate of pasture regrowth is depressed.
  • Persistence of desirable perennial grasses or legumes is reduced.
  • Plant growing points are damaged, which may adversely affect pasture composition.
  • Groundcover eventually falls below 70%, exposing the soil to erosion.

What to measure and when

Use the MLA Pasture Ruler to check post-grazing pasture height and determine residual pasture quantity in kg DM/ha. At the same time, assess the groundcover and pasture mass to determine management options to protect the natural resources. These measurements and observations are taken when stock are removed from the paddock.

Further information

  • Towards Sustainable Grazing: The Professional Producer’s Guide published by MLA.
  • MLA Tips & Tools factsheets on a variety of subjects can be accessed through the publications database: www.mla.com.au/publications.