Pop Quiz: Which photo displays a year with higher precipitation?
Posted on: Dec 16, 2013
The photos below were taken in the same pasture (in the exact same spot) in two different years. One year was a dry year, and one year enjoyed nearly average precipitation. Neither pasture had been grazed when the photos were taken.
Which is which?
Answer: the photo on the right was the dry year, while the one on the left was the wetter year.
Are you surprised? The photo on the left clearly displays reduced forage production, which occurred in a nearly average precipitation year. The photo on the right, which displays better forage production, occurred in a dry year (about 50% of this area’s typical precipitation).
The difference between these two photos, taken four years apart, was a major shift in grazing strategy on this ranch. Previously, the ranch practiced “season-long grazing” where cattle were turned into the pasture and left for the summer. The ranch then shifted to a strategy of shortened grazing durations where cattle were moved through a series of pastures using a carefully planned and monitoring grazing approach. The grazing duration went from roughly 100 days to less than 20 days. In the new approach, plants were allowed he opportunity to regrow after being bitten, and they responded vigorously. Even in dry years like the one shown in the photo above, good grazing management can often produce surprising plant growth.