MISSOURI — Last year’s weather extremes meant that cattle farmers had to feed their herds hay late into the Spring.

This caused cattle pastures to be grazed very short, which leads to overgrazing.

KMZU’s Dan Watson chatted with Valerie Tate, a Field Specialist in Agronomy with the University of Missouri Extension, about what overgrazing is, why it is a problem for local farmers and how creating a grazing plan can prevent futures overgrazing.

Click below to hear their conversation, which aired Tuesday on KMZU.

The problem with overgrazing is that the grasses and other plants do not have a chance to recover.

“If plants don’t have leaf area to make sugar for growth, then they have to use the sugars that are stored in the roots and the lower stem,” Tate said, “so when that plant is grazed short, it doesn’t have a lot of leaf area to regrow, those roots get tapped pretty hard, the stores get drained, the carbohydrate stores get drained from the root.”

According to Tate, one way that cattle farmers can keep fields healthy is to allow the field to rest.

“So the key to recovery for an overgrazed pasture is to give it some rest, give it that opportunity to recover.”

This means that herds may have to stay off of pastureland until the grass is tall enough for the cattle to eat.

Farmers can create grazing plans to rotate cattle around different fields so that only one field is in use at a time and the others can regrow.

“That gives the pasture an opportunity to rest because we keep the cattle in a smaller area for a brief period of time and then move them around the pasture in a paddock system,” Tate stated.

A benefit of creating and implementing a grazing plan is that weeds are more controlled without the farmer having extra work.

“By giving those pastures a chance to rest, those plants are healthier, they grow more quickly,” Tate said, “. . . if we can give those healthy plants, those desirable forage plants a chance to grow and be competitive, then we don’t see weeds encroaching into our pastures.”

Tate also encourages cattle farmers with questions about creating a grazing plan to contact their local extension office for further information.