Ranchers should expect delays in grass development this spring due to drought conditions since last fall, according to NDSU Extension livestock specialists. Typically, cool-season grasses initiate growth from tillers established in the previous growing season. However, drought stress last fall caused those tillers to die, therefore setting back plant development this spring. “North Dakota’s drought-stressed pastures will require special care this spring to help them recover from the fall drought,” says Miranda Meehan, Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. Overall, ranchers should expect at least a 20-to-25 percent decrease in 2021 forage production. “This reduction will be even greater if pastures are grazed too early, reducing leaf area and the plants’ ability to capture sunlight,” says Extension rangeland management specialist Kevin Sedivec. “Grazing too early will reduce plant vigor, thin existing stands, lower total forage production, and increase disease, insect and weed infestations.” Several resources to help manage drought, determine grazing readiness and manage grasslands are available from NDSU Extension.
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