Your neighbour’s unused grass could be a lifesaver

Reducing the fuel load on ungrazed areas could be a win-win for everyone

A neighbour’s ungrazed area could help you get through the dry spring.
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If you’re facing a feed shortage this spring, perhaps a neighbour could help.

“Not every square foot of land in Alberta is farmed,” said provincial beef extension specialist Andrea Hanson. “Perhaps there’s a neighbour whose land borders yours and he or she doesn’t have cattle to use the grass or getting their cattle to the area isn’t practical. If so, with the addition of a gate and some perimeter fencing, you can have some extra feed this spring and/or in the fall.”

Typically, these ungrazed areas have a lot of old thatch or grass from previous years’ growth that will protect the new growing shoots from being overgrazed.

“Grazing these areas now and leaving your pastures that may need some extra time would be a wise plan for the longevity of your pastures,” said Hanson. “Using these ungrazed areas also reduces the fire hazard from the buildup of old grass and larger fuel source. This is a benefit to all in the community.”

There are several factors to consider, including fencing and watering costs — and what the grass is worth.

“Old smooth bromegrass has very little feed value while native and some other tame plant species hold their nutritional value much longer,” she said. “Depending on the relationship with your neighbour, just reducing the fire hazard for the area may be compensation enough, not to mention the increase in soil health that grazing animals provide.”

But make sure your cattle behave themselves and don’t end up trampling your neighbour’s crop.

“The saying ‘good fences make good neighbours’ applies at all times. If you can keep the cattle happy and contained in these underutilized areas it can certainly be a win-win for both parties when spring grass is at a premium, or to extend your grazing season in the fall.”

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