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Management-Intensive Grazing: Management of Forage Supply

Weed Control

A weed can be defined as a plant that is not wanted. Pasture weeds compete with desirable forage species for light, water, and nutrients, decrease the supply of high-quality forage, and may contain toxic or deleterious compounds that reduce livestock productivity. Control of weeds can be achieved via grazing, maintaining soil fertility and proper timing of fertilizer applications, clipping or mowing of pastures, the use of herbicides, or a combination of these measures.

The maintenance of a thick stand of desirable forage species is critical, as dense forage coverage can prevent or decrease weeds in your pasture. Similarly, a good root system is key to weed control by not allowing spare nutrients and space for weeds to take root. The maintenance of ground cover and good root development are promoted by preventing overgrazing (i.e., removing animals when the pasture species reach recommended grazing heights) and by maintaining soil fertility and a relatively neutral soil pH.

Clipping of pastures can remove seedheads before additional weed seeds are deposited into the soil. Mowing is also helpful, on occasion, as grazing may not be uniform enough to suppress unpalatable weed species. However, some graziers have developed a system where their livestock become accustomed to eating weed species along with preferred forages. As a result, their use of herbicides and mowing expenses are reduced.

Of course, as in any integrated pest management approach, an herbicide is often the most effective and reasonable approach to weed control. Herbicides remain the best management practice in reclaiming and renovating pastures that have been neglected or mismanaged. Information on recommended weed control options and the effectiveness of specific herbicides can be found on the "Pest Management" page on