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 mowing pastures?!? 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. Don’t forget to read Part 2 with more reasons why mowing can be beneficial.

Why are we mowing pastures?

Brush hogging, or as some call it clipping, isn’t quite sitting on a lawnmower 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 grass stems to prevent our stocker calves from getting pinkeye. Now with a little more education and experience, I can tell ya there’s more to it than that.

mowing pastures to help with weed control
These weeds are getting as tall as the gate in the river bottoms, but are not palatable to the cows.

Weed Control and Mowing Pastures

Weed control is a big part of cleaning up pastures. We want to prevent weeds from overgrowing pastures, developing stronger root systems, and producing mature seeds. So brush hogging can be 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 the growth of more desirable plants.

Why are you mowing pastures?

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.

Continue reading Part 2 to learn how mowing pastures can be beneficial from a forage management perspective.

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