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Permalink How low should I graze my pastures down during the winter?

Answer: It depends on the species of grass, but always leave a minimum of 4 to 5 inches. If you have 1,500 to 1,800 pounds of grass per acre that you are grazing, I would suggest leaving about 8 to 10 inches. You do not want to graze the grass down to nothing; this is extremely detrimental to the health of both the grass and the soil. Leaving several inches of residue protects the soil and soil microbes over the winter by acting as an insulating blanket and mitigating the impact of harsh winds. As a result of the soil protection and insulation provided by grass residues, your grass will grow back earlier in spring and you can return to the pasture earlier.

Stock densities that are high enough to trample this residual into the soil (100,000+ pounds of animals per acre) are very much recommended. Incorporating the residue as organic matter into the soil helps feed those microbes, absorb rainfall, and improve water infiltration.

For more information on grazing, see the ATTRA publications Irrigated Pastures: Setting Up an Intensive Grazing System that Works at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=449, and Why Intensive Grazing on Irrigated Pastures? at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=448.

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