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Commodities: Field Crops: Forages: FAQs

How long should I wait to graze newly planted forages?

It is absolutely critical to prevent newly planted pasture plants from being grazed too soon. Little seedlings may actually be pulled up (roots and all) by grazing too soon. At a minimum, grazing too early will stunt and slow the establishment of the plant.
As a general rule of thumb, one needs wait until the forage has reached its specific target height to begin grazing. Each species has its own specific target height (Table 1). For perennial forages that need to put down a taproot or other extensive root system, it is often helpful to allow these plants to reach their reproductive stage (i.e., let it put up a seed head or flower) before being grazed.

Table 1. Recommended grazing heights for beginning and ending grazing and the recovery period needed between grazing some common forage species.

Crop
Target Height (inches)
Recommended
Rest Period (days)
Begin Grazing
End Grazing*
Alfalfa (grazing types)
10-16
2-4
15-30
Annual Ryegrass
6-12
3-4
7-15
Bahiagrass
6-10
1-2
10-20
Bermudagrass
4-8
1-2
7-15
Clover, White
6-8
1-3
7-15
Clovers, Other
8-10
3-5
10-20
Orchardgrass
8-12
3-6
15-30
Pearl Millet
20-24
8-12
10-20
Small grains
8-12
4
7-15
Sorghum/Sudan
20-24
8-12
10-20
Switchgrass
18-22
8-12
30-45
Tall Fescue
4-8
2-3
15-30

* Height at end of grazing should take into consideration lower quality
forage. Source: Adapted from Forage Pocket Guide, by Don Ball, Garry
Lacefield, and Carl Hoveland. 1999.

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