Oklahoma Water Resources Center

Pasture Recovery Following Drought: Deferment

Grazing and harvest deferment as a tool for post-drought recovery 

Since we are managing these drought damaged pastures as recent plantings, it is important that they have adequate time for establishment. The single most important strategy for pasture recovery will be to avoid the temptation to begin grazing as soon as plants begin their spring growth.

Overgrazing coupled with severe removal of top growth develops plants with shallow root systems. These plants need an opportunity to replenish their energy reserves and establish new root growth. It may be necessary for pastures that were used heavily during the drought to not be grazed during the entire growing season. In some cases, it may be necessary to use temporary fencing to allow for adequate grazing deferment. Ideally, spring and summer grazing of heavily grazed pastures should not begin until the plants have at least 4 or 5 weeks of growth.

It is important to maintain a critical level of stubble height. Under normal growing conditions, forage stubble height should be no less than 3 inches for bermudagrass and 5 inches for both Old World bluestem and weeping lovegrass. This serves two purposes. The first purpose is that the
remaining leaf area provides the energy for plant growth. During drought recovery, this is will increase root growth in addition to plant growth. The second purpose is for soil coverage. As the stubble breaks down, it forms a layer of litter on the soil surface. This improves soil moisture retention and also reduces soil temperature.

Daren D. Redfearn

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