OCR Interpretation

Montana farmer-stockman. [volume] (Great Falls, Mont.) 1947-1993, July 01, 1957, Image 5

Image and text provided by Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86075096/1957-07-01/ed-1/seq-5/

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The Way to Greater Profits:
Deferred Grazing
By HARLAN N. TULLEY, Range Conservationist
Soil Conservation Service, Sheridan, Wyoming
THERE IS NO better crop for con
servation of soil and water than native
range in good or excellent condition.
To obtain the maximum ground cov
er and forage production on native
range, the plants must have the op
portunity to grow ungrazed for a time
in order that seed may be produced,
plant food storage in the root systems
increased and the general health and
vigor of the plants improved.
The experience with wind and drought
conditions during the past three years
in parts of Wyoming, and the recent
flood conditions in Texas emphasize
the old axiom that soil, like freedom,
is not appreciated until it is endan
The tremendous drain on soil and
plant resources goes on without much
thought given to restoring the balance
of nature until suddenly the weather
changes and dry winds sap the mois
ture and start soil moving, or heavy
rains cut channels in the unprotected
landscape and the cry goes out "We
are losing our soil—won't someone do
Do It With Pastures
Deferred grazing, or the resting of
a pasture from grazing during the
growing season, coupled with moderate
Fortunately, many progressive ranch
ers have been doing something all the
time, and it is on their pastures that
the dry wind or the flood has little bad
effect. With plenty of grass to protect
their soil and produce livestock feed,
they weather these adverse conditions
without much concern for their con
tinued existence.
use, is the most effective, easily ap
plied and least costly means of arriv
ing at complete soil protection and high
production of forage on native pas
A comparison of summer and winter
pastures on many ranches where these
pastures have been grazed at the same
time of year for many years illustrates
this point. The summer pasture has
little mulch of dead grass leaves on
the ground even though grazing may
not have been severe. The individual
plants are spindly, with much bare
area between and there are very few
seedling plants coming in to replace
those old plants that die out each year.
In contrast, the winter pasture that
has been moderately grazed has vigor
ous, healthy plants with little or no
bare ground between them, and there
. ■
. .


Which pasture is yours? Both pictures taken the same year, in the same rainfall
belt, and os» the same range site. The pasture with only cactus growing has
is a good covering of mulch of dead
grass leaves on the ground.
. Leaf Mulch Important
T his leaf mulch is a very important
factor in control of soil erosion from
wind and w.ter, and provides a sponge
to absorb rainfall and keep the soil sur
face porous and receptive to water in
take. The insulating effect of mulch
has been proven, also. Summer soil
temperatures under mulch are much
lower than in bare ground. Mulch is
also conducive to bacterial growth in
the soil which adds to soil fertility.
The question that might now be asked
is "How can I obtain these good condi
tions, that I see on my winter pasture,
on the pastures that I must graze in
the spring and summer?"
The answer is in having enough pas
ture divisions so that seasonal grazing
growing on it, if a pasture is grazed
may be rotated and the season of use
of pastures changed each year. It is
far better for the soil, and the plants
intensively for a short period of time
than if it were grazed with a few stock
all summer.
Short Grazing Periods
A large number of stock in a small
pasture will use the forage throughout
the pasture more uniformly. When the
proper degree of use is realized, then
take the stock off and put them on
another pasture. Let the grazed pas
ture rest and grow for the rest of the
In contrast, summer-long grazing
keçps only the choicest plants grazed
down and allows the less palatable
weedy types to grow unmolested. Such
which weighed eight times as much as
summer-long grazing over many years
on the same pasture results in pre
dominance of the kinds of plants that
the stock won't eat, and a sharp de
cline in forage production results.
One of the reasons continuous graz
ing is hard on plant growth is shown
in research results from clipping the
top growth one too many times during
the growing period. Each time the top
is clipped, the roots stop growth for a
period of several days.
A series of clippings, made periodical
ly through the summer, prevented all
root growth. Undipped plants had roots
the roots from clipped plants in these
Poor Root Growth
Reduced root production is reflected
in poor development of the grass plants.
This picture shows good and poor range conditions with only a fence between.
This rangeland is in the same rainfall belt and on the same range site as the
previous pictures. (SCS photos»
Thus, continuous grazing prevents roots
from growing, and the plants are weak
ened. Even on single clippings, as
might occur with short-time grazing,
the growing top cannot be reduced
more than half without adversely affect
ing the functioning of the root system
and the plant as a whole.
In the low-rainfall areas of Wyoming,
moisture is the primary factor limiting
natural plant growth. You cannot ex
pect with 10 to 14 inches of annual rain
fall to produce the volume of forage
that would be common to an area
having 20 to 24 inches of annual rain
Grazing management, on the other
hand, is the factor that determines
what kinds of plants will grow on a
native pasture from the large number
that grow in the area. Continuous sum
mer grazing, as mentioned before, will
result in decline of the higher-produc
ing, more palatable perennial plants
and increase in the woody, less palat
able and less productive weedy species.
Summer Rest
more closely related to forage produc
tion than to livestock numbers. The
be put on 50 steers or 100 steers under
a given pasture condition. But the
greatest net profit will be realized
from the 50 steers because there will
be less overhead expense to raise and
Summer rest from grazing reverses
this Trend, and favors the more pro
ductive and more desirable forage
plants. Having several pasture divi
sions, and resting each pasture from
summer grazing in turn, provides the
means for improving the forage com
position and production on each.
Profit on natural grazing land is
same total gross gain in weight may
care for them.
Also, the better finish on the 50 head
will result in higher selling price for
each pound of gain. Adverse conditions
; '
been severely overgrazed for many years, and is In poor condition. The one iia
good condition has been rested during the growing season.
Jufy 1, 1957—5
could cause the rancher to sell back
some of the 100 head on a low market
in order to save the remainder, with
not much chance of good weight gains
on even the few' he saved.
Hold for Gain
The same conditions would probably
cause the rancher with the 50 head to
sell few, if any, -but he could save the
greater percentage for a more favor
able market and still realize a fair
gain in weight on each.
When these conditions cause forced
sales in the breeding herd, then the
rancher can only conclude that he has
more stock than he can economically
handle. Drought and winter storms are
natural conditions in the plains coun
try, and should be accepted and pro
vided for, rather than being considered
as a freak of weather.
First Step to Profits
Making the decision to try summer
rest on a few pastures is the first step
to greater profits from more forage
production. The most favorable results
from this method of pasture manage
ment are usually obtained in years of
normal or better rainfall.
Response of the desirable grasses is
quicker during a good year, and when
a dry year comes the good results of
healthier, more vigorous grass and
higher production are ready to go to
work to protect the soil and provide
forage for a balanced livestock opera
Soil is the rancher's bank. It won't
stand too many promissory notes. The
time to prepare for a drought is be
fore it happens. Soil Conservation Dis
tricts throughout Wyoming are ready
to help combat effects of abnormal
years with technical advice and serv
ices of the Soil Conservation Service.
They advise ranchers to take only half
the grass, so the half they leave can
pay dividends.

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