Why Am I Mowing Pastures: Part 1

As I’m bumping, bouncing, and thumping across the rough pastures lately one question comes to mind. Why am I doing this?!? Why are we brush hogging pastures, clipping the grass and weeds, when we have cows that can do the very same thing? There are many, many answers to these questions.

Brush hogging, or as some call it clipping, isn’t quite sitting on a lawn mower cutting grass and weeds. Cleaning pastures with a brush hog is like taking your mower deck, increasing it to as much as 20 feet or more, and turning the drive shaft at 1000 rounds per minute.

Had you asked me a few years ago why we brush hog pastures, I would have told you to clean them up and to knock down all of the fescue stems to prevent our stocker calves from getting pinkeye. Now with a lil more education and experience, I can tell ya there’s a lilmore to it than that.

These weeds are getting as tall as the gate in the river bottoms, but are not palatable to the cows.

Weed control is a big part of cleaning up pastures. We want to prevent weeds from over growing pastures, developing stronger root systems, and producing mature seeds. So brush hogging can be a mechanical weed control. A brush hog is also used to clean the edges of the pastures, along creeks and ditches where trees and shrubs try to encroach on pasture land. This can turn into a pretty big task when situations have been neglected for a few years. Brush hogging also cleans away older forage growth that becomes less palatable to livestock as plant fibers turn to lignin which is less digestible. Then fresh, more palatable grasses and forages can grow for livestock to eat.

I can already hear someone saying “Well if you practiced better forage and grazing management, there wouldn’t be a need to clean the pastures.” And that is true. I’m very interested in learning how I can better manage my grazing patterns to reduce the need for brush hogging. It’s a long, hard, sometimes dirty process to clean the pastures when I could let the cows be eating it all. But in the process of making that change, I’ll still need to brush hog to encourage growth of more desirable plants.

So maybe I’ll put that question out there to ya. How can better pasture management reduce the need for cleaning with a brush hog? It’s something I want to learn more about and look forward to your responses.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow as Jesse Bussard, a forage graduate student at Kentucky shares her thoughts.

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Ryan Goodman works in grassroots advocacy with beef cattle farmers and ranchers across the United States. He is a proud alumnus of Oklahoma State University, with studies focusing on cattle reproduction and nutrition. Ryans
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