Western North Dakota pastures were hit hard last fall by drought and many are still recovering as the 2018 grazing season approaches. NDSU Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist Miranda Meehan says pastures are about two weeks behind the average pace. “Even compared to last year, which was also dry,” says Meehan. “Producers should make sure cattle aren’t getting out there too early and setting forage production back even further.” When checking for grazing readiness, Meehan says the process is simple. Just count the number of leaves on the grass. “Native grass species are ready at the three-and-a-half leaf stage and pasture plants are ready at the three-leaf stage.” Producers should also adjust stocking rates accordingly to avoid further pasture damage due to drought.