Waterlogged pastures can suffer considerable damage when cattle are turned out for supplemental feeding, so management is needed to minimize sod damage, says a provincial forage and beef specialist.
“Pelleted or cubed feeds, as well as grain, are perhaps the easiest to manage because animals can be fed these feeds on different areas of the pasture each session,” said Karin Lindquist. “Small piles can be placed in different locations. That way, all animals get equal access and amounts, from the boss cow to the ones lower in the herd’s pecking order.”
Protein tubs are more difficult to move around to prevent damage to the pasture sod. These tubs often remain in one spot the entire time the herd is using them.
“While placing the tub at one of the highest points in the pasture is a good start, making it more mobile and easier to move by placing it on a makeshift sled or skid could help,” she said. “Keeping the tub in one spot may be seen as a better option than moving it around due to reducing the number of areas that receive heavy hoof traffic. However, it is important to realize that the wetter and more traffic the area gets, the more it is damaged, and the longer it will take to recover.”
Those damaged areas will need to be repaired and reseeded to prevent weeds from proliferating the following year. The type of repair depends on the level of damage to the sod, Lindquist said.
“Spreading some forage seed of an area that was lightly damaged with no pronounced pugging is usually all that is required. Areas with significant ruts need to be worked with a disc and some cultivation until the ruts have been eliminated and the land is smooth. It should be packed well before reseeding to encourage optimal germination.”
In both cases, animals must be kept off these areas to allow the newly seeded plants sufficient time to grow and put down roots.