Small Ruminant Program Leader
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Yes it is that time of year again to start preparing your pastures for spring and summer grazing for your goat herd. Goats are active foragers and will consume a variety of grasses, legumes and browse plants (i.e., leaves, twigs, and young shoots of trees or shrubs often found in woody areas) to meet their nutritional needs. Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) is a warm season perennial grass that is grown extensively for livestock in the southeast. It is adaptable to a wide range of soils and environmental conditions. Bahiagrass is tolerant to close grazing, it does well during droughts, requires minimum management and the total digestible nutrients [TDN] and crude protein [CP] level is adequate (TDN 54-56% and CP 8 -11%). The typical fertilizer and lime rates are 75-175 lbs. of nitrogen per acre (N), 40 lbs. of phosphorus (P2O5) per acre, 40 lbs. of Potassium (K2O) per acre and 0.3-0.5 tons of lime per acre (Hancock et. al., 2010). There are several varieties available including Common, Pensacola, Argentine, Paraquay 22, Tifton-9, TifQuik, UF-Riata, but check with your local feed store to find out what is available in your area. The seeding rates for bahia with depend on the variety and planting method that is used. This information can be found on the seed bag. Bahiagrass is easily seeded by mechanical means with a seed drill or seed broadcaster. The seed germinates according to the variety with the Pensacola taking up to 30 days, depending upon the soil temperature and moisture. Planting dates are February – June (best) or September – November (Broome et. al., 2010). To maintain optimum forage quality graze between 4–6 inches from the ground.
Cross fences enable rotational grazing Photo Credits: Angela McKenzie-Jakes
Bermuda grass is (Cynodon dactylon) is also a warm season perennial grass that has been found growing in many native forms all over the world and grows approximately in one third of the USA (warmer areas). Like bahia, bermudagrass is tolerant to drought and can grow on soils with low fertility. It thrives in optimum sunlight with moderate watering, but can survive with less water than other kinds of grass. The typical fertilizer and lime requirements are 150-250 lbs. of nitrogen per acre (N), 30 lbs. of phosphorus (P2O5) per acre, 65 lbs. of Potassium (K2O) per acre and 0.3-0.5 tons of lime per acre (Hancock et. al., 2010). Some of the varieties of bermudagrass that are available include Coastal, Suwannee, Callie, Tifton 44, Tifton 78 and Tifton 85. Seeding rates will depend on the variety and planting method. Under favorable conditions CP levels can ranged between 8 -16% and 46- 56% for TDN. Bermudagrass is established through seeding of the Common bermuda or by sprigging which is expensive. Planting dates for seeds is between March and June and between February – June or April – August (top growth) for sprigs and top growth (Broome et. al., 2010). The recommended grazing height is 4-6 inches.
Other warm season forages to consider include Pearl Millet, Browntop Millet, Cowpea, Alyceclover or Aeschynome (Chambliss, 1999). Rotational grazing can also be beneficial in regulating the frequency and intensity of grazing to control quality, yield, utilization, persistence of pastures, and internal parasites and other diseases in the goat herd as shown in the figure at the right
Broome et. al., 2010. Forage Species, Varieties, Planting Dates and Rates. Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Chambliss, C. 1999. Florida Forage Handbook. University of Florida, Cooperative Extension Service.
Hancock et. al., 2010. The Management and Use of Bahiagrass. University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension.
McKenzie-Jakes, A., 2007. Nutrition and Pasture Management for Meat Goats. Florida A&M University, Cooperative Extension Program
Table 1. Pasture Rotation System (McKenzie-Jakes, 2007).
Browse Area 1 Acre
Pastures for Spring and Summer Goat Herd Grazing
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