Given the drought conditions that Nebraska experienced in 2022, it is likely that many pastures will have an abundance of spring and summer weeds this year.
Drought last year also has led to the general recommendation of delaying turn out to pasture, but early flash grazing can be an option to capitalize on growth of some of those weeds. Flash grazing is the process of quickly rotating through pastures early, before they are scheduled for their main summer grazing period.
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When flash grazing mixed cool- and warm-season grass pastures, we do want to be a little more cautious as to not overgraze any desirable cool-season grasses. In areas where cheatgrass or downy brome is a problem, grazing at strategic windows, such as during the cheatgrass elongation phase right before seed set, appears to be the best time to apply grazing. Grazing at this time matches diet preference by grazing animals with the cheatgrass growth period and limits over use on perennial cool-season grasses growing at the same time. Targeted grazing is a long-term management option that can utilize cheatgrass as a forage resource and limit the potential seed proliferation within a system.
In warm-season grass pastures, an abundance of early weeds will remove moisture that could be used for grass growth later on and they remove valuable nutrients from the soil. Early weeds also can develop so much growth that they can shade, smother, and reduce early growth of your summer pasture grasses.
While early flash grazing of some pastures will not eliminate all the weeds, it can actually make for some pretty timely and valuable pasture.