Home > Beef, Diet, Nutrition, Science > It’s More Than Corn: Pasture Talk

It’s More Than Corn: Pasture Talk

Having discussed feedstuffs and ration formulation it is now time to talk about pastures, an essential component in the cattle business.

By definition, a pasture is an area of land which there is growth of forage which livestock may graze at will. Good pastures have ample growth of lush, green, nutritious, actively growing forage from which livestock can eat all they can consume in a relatively short period of time. Pastures vary greatly, depending on type, growing conditions and stage of maturity.

Legumes and Nonlegumes


Red Clover, Legume
Red Clover, Legume
Fescue, Nonlegume

Fescue, Nonlegume








A legume is a plant which has the capacity to harbor nitrifying bacteria in its roots and is able to meet at least part, if not all, of its own nitrogen needs. A nonlegume is dependent upon outside sources of nitrogen.

Annuals and Perennials


Barley, Annual
Barley, Annual



Orchard Grass, Perennial

Orchard Grass, Perennial









An annual plant must be planted from seed each year. A perennial does not have to be annually reseeded. Regional conditions determine the life span of a perennial, particularly in its ability to maintain desired yields. Depending on the plant, perennials are rotated out, when the yield drops off, for a year and then replanted.

Summer and Winter

Bluegrass, Summer

Bluegrass, Summer

Oats, Winter

Oats, Winter








A summer pasture starts growing with the onset  of warm weather in the spring and continues to grow until halted by fall frost. Winter pasture starts active growth in the fall, remains alive during the winter and makes rapid growth during the late winter and spring, with little if any growth during the summer.

Temporary and Permanent

Temporary pasture is one that is seeded on freshly cultivated soil for use through only one or a part of one grazing season. These pastures typically are an annual or a mix of annuals. A permanent pasture, once established, remains as pasture for a period of years. It may involve a mix of perennials or continual reseeding of annuals.

Mixture and Pure Seedings

A pasture mixture is a combination of two or more pasture crops in the same area. Typically the crops complement each other in growth characteristics and/or nutritive value. Pure seeding is a pasture which supposedly consists of only one species, although completely pure stands are seldom found.

 Pasture Classification


Pasture Classification

Pasture Classification Table

 *Summer in the north, winter in the south

 The table below is provided so comparisons can be made between some of the feeds and pastures mentioned in this and previous posts. Note the differences between some of the pastures and their corresponding hays.

 Feed Compositions

  Dry Matter % Crude Protein % TDN % DE mcal/lb Ca % P %
Alfalfa Pasture 21 4.3 13 .268 .41 .06
Alfalfa Hay 90 15.3 52 1.04 1.27 .22
Barley Grain 88 11.9 74 1.48 .04 .34
Bermuda Pasture 29 4.4 19 .372 .14 .08
Bermuda Hay 91 8.9 42 .839 .43 .16
Bluegrass Pasture 35 5.2 23 1.20 .29 .24
Bluegrass Hay 89 11.6 54 1.08 .29 .22
Corn 89 9.6 77 1.52 .03 .26
Corn Silage 30 2.5 21 .413 .09 .08
Cottonseed Meal 92 38.6 67 1.347 .18 .96
Fescue Pasture 29 4.2 19 .386 .15 .11
Fescue Hay 90 8.3 50 1.00 .46 .32
Grain Sorghum 90 11.1 78 1.54 .03 .29
Oats Grain 89 11.8 68 1.37 .07 .33
Oat Hay 91 8.5 56 1.11 .22 .20
Orchardgrass Pasture 23 4.3 17 .336 .13 .13
Orchardgrass Hay 91 7.6 49 .98 .35 .32
Peanut Meal 92 48 71 1.41 .27 .62
Soybean Meal 89 44.6 75 1.50 .30 .62
Timothy Hay 89 7.2 52 1.03 .38 .18
Wheat Grain 89 14.2 78 1.56 .04 .37
  1. February 3, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Serious follower of this blog, a variety of your articles have seriously helped me out. Looking forward to posts!

  2. April 24, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    Excellent reminder of the feed values! Thanks!

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