Being a self-proclaimed Grass Geek may seem easy on the surface but, to be completely honest, keeping our pasture and grass quality high on the priority list, particularly during a drought, is easier said than done.
Just like our own personal health, we are constantly working on improving our pastures. Our bodies need attention and care consistently to remain healthy and pastures are no different! We can’t just focus on grass quality for a few months and then call it good for several years – having high-quality pastures is a labor of love: consistent and focused.
It may seem like a stretch to equate healthy bodies to healthy grass and healthy cattle but let’s break it down. Here are five reasons why we prioritize healthy grass for raising healthy cattle.
- Cattle health is of utmost importance to us. A cow with a low body condition score (BCS) will have less milk for her calf and may have decreased immunity which can lead to more health issues down the road such as death loss or reduced performance.
- We’re cost conscious and feed costs for cattle can cost up to and beyond 60% of the maintenance cost of a cow. The most affordable way for us to feed our cows is with good ole grass, so if we are taking care of the grass and pastures, we can save money and be more profitable in the end.
- Staying on trackwith calving and breeding back is much more difficult when cows don’t have a favorable BCS. By making sure our cows’ nutritional needs are met, we lay the foundation for success next year, too.
- Calves matter too, when it comes to pasture health. The more nutritious and plentiful grazing we have through the weaning stage, the faster and more efficient our calves will grow. In the long run, this means we can reduce the amount of supplemental feed we need to provide them.
- Weeds can be noxious, aka toxic, and there can be major potential issues with cattle ingesting weeds. A cow’s ability to breed back or produce milk can be severely impacted if weed pressure is not addressed. Additionally, some weeds can kill a cow such as hemlock or black nightshade.
Prioritizing the land and cattle goes hand in hand for us. On our ranch, maintaining healthy pastures involves rotating pastures before the grass is nubbed down to the ground, spraying annually for weed pressure, and removing brushy growth and woody encroachment. Not only do these actions increase grass availability for our cows, stockers and calves, they also improve the health of the pasture for long-term use and availability. If we leave ample grass behind from each pasture move, it strengthens the root system, which improves the water-holding capacity of the soil and the overall nutrient profile, as well.
Individually, these goals may seem insignificant but when they are stacked on top of each other, they lead to improved pasture health, improved cattle health and overall improved sustainability for our ranch and the larger beef community. Healthy cattle yield healthy and nutritious beef, which is the overall goal for those of us who dedicate our lives to raising cattle.
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~