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The Cattle Connection

What is Overgrazing?

Overgrazing is the failure to match animal grazing to forage growth and production. In most cases, cattle or any grazing animal is allowed to continuously harvest a plant without allowing the plant to feed itself. Many times overgrazing causes reduced pasture stands and forces the cattlemen to feed purchased feeds, which are expensive and result in loss of profits.

The ability to identify overgrazing is a must-have skill for grazers. If overgrazing is occurring, the plant is being harmed and thus the potential feed resources are being compromised. Continuous overgrazing can lead to many problems. First, the plant yield could be severely reduced or even eliminated. This will result in less or no feed for the animal. Next, the roots of the plant that depend on the green leaves to scavenger sunlight and nutrients will be starved. This results in less root base and makes the plant very susceptible to drought. Less root mass will result in less ability to take up subsoil moisture. A weaker forage plant will also open the door for weeds to come into the stand. Weed pressure is best eliminated by good grazing practices and management to promote wanted forages. Finally, soil health is very dependent on the creatures and microorganisms that live in the soil. These creatures feed primarily off of nutrient delivered via plant roots. Thus, less green forage on top of the soil, less root mass, and less food for your soil biology. The chain is connected and thus many problems can arise by not managing forage and cattle grazing correctly. Paying attention to your forage height and not allowing animals to overgraze is the key to getting the most out of your pastures year after year.