If you drive by acres of open pasture with cattle happily grazing, it might seem as if managing their nutrition is as simple as letting them outside in the yard. However, there’s a lot of thought, preparation and analysis that goes into their diets. If you’re interested in learning about what goes into forage management for a herd, this is the blog post for you. If you’d like to learn even more about running a ranch, visit our blog on our website

Grass-finished Vs. Grain-finished First, it’s important to understand what the current American consumer wants. The grass-fed beef industry has spiked in popularity the last few years, with imports being made to keep up with demand. Good grazing land is at a premium in the United States. It’s important to note the distinction between grass-finished cattle and grain-finished cattle. Both can be labeled as grass-fed, nearly every cow spends most of its life eating grass, but the latter spends the last 160 to 180 days of its life being fattened on a mixture of grains.

Cattle Nutrition Grain-finishing accounts for approximately 95 percent of the beef supply in the United States. Whether you choose to finish on grain or grass though, it’s important to start with a good forage and grass base. This is where the cattle are getting their energy, and energy supply turns into weight gain. The highest average daily gains for cattle occur when their forage is more than 65 percent digestible and supplies between 14 and 18 percent crude protein. 

Pasture Rotation In order for the cattle to get good forage and good grazing, pasture rotation is an imperative practice. If the cattle eat the grass too low, photosynthesis occurs slowly, causing growth of the grass to become impeded. Forage should never be restricted, but overeating a specific pasture should not occur, as it could lead to restricted intake down the line and low daily weight gains.

To see Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch pastures for yourself, we invite you to come on one of our agritours. We look forward to seeing you there.