Be careful grazing the green this fall

SDSU Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — This fall, South Dakota livestock producers need to be careful when grazing the fall green up of cool season grasses.

“Some areas of South Dakota have been blessed with plenty of precipitation this year, making it tempting to heavily graze cool season grasses. But, extreme diligence must be taken not to overgraze during the fall green up of cool season grasses,” said Sean Kelly, SDSU Extension Range Management Field Specialist.

Kelly explained that during the fall green up, cool season grasses are storing their energy reserves to ensure health through the dormant season and vigor next spring when the growing season starts again. Whereas, warm season grasses grow later in the season during the summer and late summer and do not get another green up in the fall of the year.

Leave 6 inches

Cool season grasses have two growing seasons.

“They grow in the spring and early summer and then get another growth spurt in the fall,” Kelly said. “Tremendous damage to cool season grasses can happen if they are overgrazed during the fall green up and they are unable to build those root reserves.”

He explained that if overgrazed in the fall, cool season plants will have less vigor the following spring and may die out completely during the dormant season.

To ensure cool season grasses are not overgrazed, a best management practice is to leave at least 6-inches.

“Native cool season grasses should not be grazed shorter than 6 inches in plant height,” Kelly said.

There are yet other benefits to leaving sufficient plant height into the dormant season.

“The soil surface will be protected from erosion and will optimize snow capture during the winter,” Kelly said.

Warm season and cool season growth curves.
Fall green up of cool season pasture in Tripp County.