GREENFIELD, Mo. – With proper management, grassland pastures that provide high quality forage for livestock can also furnish good habitat for wildlife.
Cattle producers can learn more about how the use of native warm season grasses can benefit livestock and native wildlife on March 4 at a grazing workshop at the Greenfield Masonic Lodge, located on the square in Greenfield. This workshop is a collaborative effort of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), University of Missouri Extension, and Pheasants Forever. The workshop will be 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and lunch will be provided. There will be a tour after lunch to a farm that's utilizing warm season grass as part of a rotational grazing system. The workshop is limited to 30 participants and the registration deadline is Feb. 20. To register, contact MDC Private Land Conservationist Landry Jones at 417-326-5189, ext. 1848 or at Landry.Jones@mdc.mo.gov
When Missouri was settled in the 1800s, native warm season grasses could be found in many areas of the state. In addition to serving as habitat for a variety of wildlife species, these native grasses soon acquired an additional importance as livestock forage. Early livestock owners quickly realized these “prairie grasses” were good for haying or grazing. However, over time these warm season grasses were gradually nudged out by fescue, brome and other non-native cool-season grasses. This transition not only eliminated plants that were needed by local wildlife, it also got rid of a good summer grazing source for livestock.
Today, an increasing number of cattle producers are re-discovering the benefits of native warm season grasses. Adding warm season grass areas to a grazing system that already features cool season grass creates a forage system that allows livestock owners to keep their herds feeding on high quality forage for a longer period of time.
The reason for this is that this merger combines grasses that have two different growing periods. Warm and cool season grasses are most nutritious while they are vigorously growing. Cool season grasses are thus named because they grow most during the spring and fall. Meanwhile, native grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass and switch grass are known as “warm season” grasses because their peak growth periods are in late spring and summer. By utilizing both types of grasses during their periods of prime quality, livestock owners can keep their herds feeding on high-nutrition forage for the entire grazing season.
There are benefits for wildlife, too. Warm season grasses begin growth later in year and are not ready to be grazed or hayed until summer. By then, most of the ground-nesting wildlife that need these plants for habitats have hatched their broods.
More information about using warm-season grasses in a livestock grazing operation can be found at mdc.mo.gov.