University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson conducted his own experiment with swath grazing this summer. Here he shares some of his lessons learned.
Initially, he used a higher cutting height hoping it would prompt faster regrowth, but it really didn’t help because the cattle ate of the remaining green leaves.
Thus, for his second attempt at swath grazing, he cut the pasture short, like it would be for making hay. He reports, “I tried this on just four acres that hadn’t been grazed all year, cutting about half to begin with and then cutting another acre each time the cattle were about finished with what was cut earlier. After a day of drying the forage was raked and cattle were given a strip I thought would last about one day.”
Anderson goes on to explain that his area estimate was pretty good but he quickly realized there would be less waste if he moved fence twice a day. He says, “This got the animals to nicely clean up the windrows so after a few days of this I went back to one move per day and they continued to clean things up. The four acres fed 35 pairs and 2 bulls for 16 days. That worked out to almost five animal unit months per acre. Since my usual production is about three AUMs per acre for the full season, I’m quite pleased.”
He also notes that an added plus is all the extra regrowth time his other pastures received.
What could be improved with the system? Anderson says there are two things he’d change next time – cut earlier so hay isn’t so mature and reduce the number of days on a single area of pasture.
He concludes, “I don’t think the calves gained weight very well on the low quality hay. And grass that started to regrow in earlier cut areas was grazed off during the 16-day grazing period so now they may not regrow as fast. But all in all, I think summer swath grazing is a viable practice.”