Seeing green grasses growing in pastures may tempt farmers to turn livestock to start grazing. University of Missouri Extension forage specialist, Rob Kallenbach says “Hold back, wait for grass to reach a minimum 4 inches of new growth. More is better.”

A delayed start on grazing becomes more important than usual this spring. “Pastures will be weak and thin,” he says. “Give grasses a chance to gain strength.” Pastures were hurt two ways. First, dry weather last fall left grasses weak going into winter. The fall of 2013 was drier than the fall of the drought year of 2012, when hurricane rains revived fall pastures. Secondly, extreme cold killed or set back grass this year.

Extreme variations in temperatures made winterkill worse. There would be 60 degrees one day. Three days later it would fall below zero again. “The plant would react to the springlike temperatures and then get zapped. Grazing too early could cause need for pasture reseeding later, or the weak stands could become crowded out with weeds. Thin stands leave open spaces for weed seedlings to emerge. Kallenbach recommends taking a pasture walk to evaluate the growth. “Check the pastures before turning in the cows.”

Patience in letting early grass grow will affect grass production all season long, Kallenbach says. Feeding hay a little longer will help the grass.

For more information about pasture grazing you can contact Rob Kallenbach at 573-884-2213.