How to graze cool season forages for maximum productivity AND health!

total grazing Jun 22, 2021

Today I am going to talk about C3 or cool season forages.

Conventional nutritionists, in general, balance rations on net maintenance energy, net gain energy and net lactation energy, this does not help much when we need to make the best decision to determine the stage of maturity of our forage to graze it, and most importantly how to graze it, as selective grazing can cause health problems. For example, they tell us that a young C3 grass is higher in energy and protein with low fiber content which leads to higher daily intake, but they cut machine cut it and use it on a total mixed ration in a corral! If we take these recommendations and graze our cool season or C3 forages: alfalfa, ryegrass, clovers, orchard grass when very young we will have health problems in our livestock: bloat, diarrhea, nitrates, caused by excess protein in relation to available energy and a very low fiber content. This can also happen in very young C4 grasses.

We need to know that a protein excess in the daily intake in relation to available energy causes health problems. This is due to ammonia being released in the rumen, which is the main cause of frothy bloat, plus it increases the pH of the body of the animal, prerequisite for sickness such as: Pneumonia, pink eye, foot rot, etc. The ammonia in the blood displaces oxygen which also causes your animals to pant even when it is not too hot.

Your C3 forages, as they mature, lose energy and protein, but gain effective fiber and their digestible portion becomes more soluble which increases the portion of energy that is available.

It is better to allow more maturity before grazing C3 forages for their nutrients to be better balanced, under a Total grazing where 80-90% of the plant is consumed. This way you get better productivity per acre and better health in your animals.

Why do you need to do Total grazing and not selective grazing?

This will be explained in detail in the Total grazing course but will explain here.

If we divide the plant in three parts and analyze them for energy, protein and fiber we find that the top third part has the most energy and protein but less fiber, while the lower part will contain less energy and protein but higher fiber; this is the reason why livestock under selective grazing select the parts of the plant that are sweeter y have less fiber which will cause diarrhea and health problems. Diarrhea in your cattle needs to be avoided as it means suboptimal health and lower conversion efficiency. On the other hand, with Total Grazing your cattle consume all the plant, which averages a better balance in respect to protein, available energy and fiber.

For our animals to be efficient convertors of forage to meat or milk we need them to be healthy first!

Next week I will talk about warm season or C4 grasses and how we need to graze them for maximum productivity and health in your animals through the year!

If you are interested in taking the Total Grazing course once the enrollment opens, join the waitlist here:


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