“Pasture is the cheapest feed resource in a cattle operation,” says Patrick Davis, University of Missouri Extension livestock field specialist. Proper pasture management in the late winter and early spring will help optimize forage production during the grazing months and will have a positive impact on production and profitability, Davis says.

“Cattle producers need to evaluate their pastures,” he says. Identify pastures that need renovation and consider using those as sacrifice pastures. Davis urges consultation with an MU Extension agronomy specialist to grade pastures and make decisions on potential pastures that need renovation.

“Move cattle to sacrifice pastures for hay feeding until grass is at proper grazing height,” Davis says. This helps provide fertility in these areas in the form of manure and hay, which aids in the renovation process. Also, this strategy reduces destruction of good pastures, which could affect their productivity throughout the grazing season.

“Hold cattle off good cool-season grass pastures until proper forage height is achieved,”  he says. At turnout, cool-season pastures should have about 6 inches of growth. During the grazing season, cool season pasture heights should range between 4 and 8 inches. Davis urges cattle producers to stay within this range during the grazing season to maintain optimum grass growth and quality for optimum cattle performance and productivity.

“Improve pasture forage quality and animal performance by seeding legumes,” he says. Legumes such as clovers and lespedeza can be drilled now to provide high-quality forage grazing opportunities in the spring and summer months. In addition, they help dilute cattle fescue consumption, reducing fescue toxicosis problems. Legumes are high in calcium and magnesium, which aids in proper cattle mineral balance.

For help in the establishment of legumes, work with your local extension agronomy specialist and consult MU Extension publication G4652, “Seeding Rates, Dates and Depths for Common Missouri Forages,” available for free download at

“Forage and grazing management are key to profitably of your cattle operation,” Davis says.

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