Managed grazing with dairy heifers: Integrating cool- and warm-season grasses for improved seasonal productivity

Managed grazing in Wisconsin has been a growing fraction of the dairy industry for nearly 20 years. A recent survey by Wis-DATCP (Paine and Gildersleeve, 2011) revealed that 22% of all dairy farms now practice some managed grazing, highest in the Southwest (28%) and in each of North central and West central regions (23%), with lower adoption in the East central and Southeast regions at 11-12%. That same survey indicated an average of 93 acres in pasture per farm with grazing and an average grazing season of 7 months. A common topic of discussion among graziers is how to overcome the ‘summer slump’, a period of low production for cool-season grasses due to warm and often dry weather of summer (Fig. 1; Casler et al., 1998; Paine et al., 1999). While some farmers may plant summer annuals such as sudangrass, sorghum, and even soybeans for forage, these typically involve tillage and can mean obtaining equipment they don’t own. Another option that is being considered is integrating native warm-season grasses into a cool-season system for more uniform seasonal production

Authors: J. Hedtcke and J. Posner