In April we start gearing up to move our livestock to pasture. Chapter 22 in the Alberta EFP workbook gives you a great start with these resources and background.
What you should know
Good pasture management is important not only for forage and livestock production but also for maintaining healthy ecosystems. A healthy ecosystem can support diverse plant communities, protect sensitive species, effectively safeguard soil and water quality and, ultimately, increase productivity. Chapter 22 in the EFP workbook helps you understand and recognize the impact livestock grazing has on ecosystem properties.
Unmanaged, overgrazed pastures result in decreased plant vigor and production, increased areas of bare ground and, eventually, the loss of desirable species. Overgrazing encourages weed growth and soil degradation.
Unmanaged pastures also lead to nutrient runoff into nearby water bodies. Restricting livestock access to water bodies helps preserve water quality. Matching crop use to landscape and soil type helps prevent soil erosion.
Using a flexible plan with careful monitoring and grazing activity records reduces environmental risk and improves pasture profitability.
What you can do
- Keep native pasture and forested land as such.
- Understand the nutrient requirements of a pasture and ensure nutrient applications match, but do not exceed the needs of plants and livestock.
- Use appropriate management to provide the rest periods pastures need to maintain plant vigor and species diversity.
- Practice herd management to distribute grazing activity and to uniformly return livestock nutrients to pasture land.
- Balance proper stocking rate with grazing time to leave sufficient plant litter. Plant litter protects against soil compaction and erosion and retains soil moisture for future plant growth.
- Know and understand the legislation that pertains to pasture management. Manage your operation to meet and if possible exceed legislation.
- Use the Chapter 22 in the EFP workbook to assess your pasture management practices.