Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358 Fax: (859) 323-1952
Extension Beef Cattle Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-2853 Fax: (859) 257-3412
A sacrifice area is a location strategically used as a holding area to protect the forage stands of other pastures. These areas are commonly used when forages are too thin or short for grazing, to allow other pastures a rest period, during extremely wet or drought conditions, for winter feeding areas, or for lambing and calving areas. These areas are negatively affected by the increased traffic which can cause problems such as soil compaction, cover by manure and hay residues, and forage damage from overgrazing and hoof action. Steps should be taken to reduce these negative effects. These areas often become bare and prone to erosion if not renovated.
Sacrifice areas can by rotated to different pastures between years or one site can be used annually. When determining the site of a sacrifice area, it is important to use an area that
is not prone to erosion and can be easily renovated. Because the livestock may spend prolonged periods of time in the area, there also needs to be access to water. It is beneficial to renovate these areas in the spring with a vigorous species that will germinate and establish quickly.
Leaving these areas bare will cause increased erosion and weed problems. Following the basic guidelines for any forage establishment is important. One of the best options is to drill perennial or annual ryegrass into these areas for a quick cover. If livestock can be kept off of these areas for a prolonged period of time, it can be beneficial to plant perennial grasses and legumes like orchardgrass, tall fescue, KY bluegrass, ladino white clover and/or red clover. It is important that these species have time to establish before being grazed or exposed to high traffic. It is also possible to mix these species in with ryegrass, but mixtures should not contain more than 20% ryegrass or it will outcompete the slower growing perennial grasses. In situations where the field will not have an adequate rest period, planting annual ryegrass each year is the best option.
Sacrifice areas can be advantageous to use during times of heavy rain, droughts, or when pastures do not have enough forage to graze. These areas and other high traffic areas can be renovated in early spring to provide a quick cover by reseeding and giving the seedlings adequate growth time. Using a sacrifice area can be useful to save other pastures from overgrazing, soil compaction, and other damage.