Producers are looking to find ways to maximize their pastureland so pounds per acre can overcome the cost per acre.

Tjardes kent
Field Cattle Consultant / Purina Animal Nutrition

Whether you’re a cow-calf producer selling off weaned calves or a stocker operator trying to put weight on cattle, you need to utilize your grass resources as efficiently as possible to make a positive impact on your bottom line.

One way to get the most of your pastureland is implementing a plan to distribute grazing.

We’ve all seen the overgrazed areas near water troughs or where forage is fed. The grass is grazed down to the roots, and in some cases you can’t see anything but dirt. But just down the fenceline a half-mile is an underutilized area of pasture which can and should be used.

Cattle will only go so far from feed and water sources, but they can be baited into other underused areas of pasture.


Often people will try to put in fences and water sources to control where cattle are grazing. A more cost-effective alternative can include baiting them with supplements, either a mineral or protein supplement.

Cattle seek out protein- and mineral-type products because they crave them. Liquid supplements and cooked tubs, protein or mineral, can help distribute grazing if used effectively.

How to push your grazing boundaries

If cattle have never had liquid supplements or block-type tubs, you’ll need to start by placing them in an area where the group can get adjusted to using them. Initially, you’ll want to place supplements close to the water and loafing areas.

As cattle get comfortable with them, you can gradually start moving them further away from those areas to get them to seek out the supplement source.

Cattle have a great sense of smell and, after acclimation to something like a molasses-based product, they will smell and seek those feed sources.

As you begin shifting supplements away from the water and loafing areas, it’s important to visually monitor intake and cattle patterns over the next few days or weeks.

If you know the weight of the tubs you put out, the number of cattle and the number of days they had access to the tubs, you can easily calculate how much they are eating per day.

If they are eating at a higher level than they should be, you’ll need to move the tub further out. If they are undereating, you might move the supplement a bit closer to the water and loafing area until they start eating at the correct level, then gradually move it out further.

You can also visually check cattle distribution by looking at the grass around the area of the supplements. If the grass looks like it has been frequently walked on, with manure in the area, then the cows are moving into the desired areas.

Once you have cattle grazing underutilized areas, you can slowly shift them into other areas as needed to get the most out of your pasture.

Other factors in play

Regular feeding of hay, cubes or other protein sources can have a dramatic impact on grazing distribution, especially if cattle are waiting to receive their delivery of those sources.

When you’re delivering hay and forage, it’s often in an area which is most convenient to get to. But we still want those cattle to go out into the pasture and not just hang around the feed area waiting for the delivery vehicle.

It can really help to have mineral and protein sources in the pasture away from that delivery area so the cattle have to leave and move into other parts of the pasture.

If you have the choice to change where you deliver feed, switching up the delivery area will help distribute cattle on pasture as well.

Some producers have either a mineral source or protein source but may not have both. It can be wise to offer both, assuming that an animal may only go to one or the other in a given day.

The challenge is that a cow is not going to just walk up to a mineral tub, take a couple licks and then move to the protein tub. More than likely, she’ll use one on any given day and the other on the next day.

Your protein supplement should have minerals in it, but it’s advisable to put out a mineral source as well, assuming the cow might not go and get her protein allotment for the day. That way she at least gets some mineral from the mineral source despite not visiting the protein supplement.

Using intake modifiers

Some protein supplement options today use intake control properties, which encourage cows to eat smaller, “snack-sized” meals throughout a day. This technology helps send metabolic signals to the cow, telling her it’s time to stop eating supplement and go graze.

This technology can help cattle get out and graze throughout the day versus eating one or two extremely large meals. If you’re delivering a protein source or cubes a couple times per week, it’s likely that cattle will consume all of their allotment in one meal versus distributing that out over multiple meals. Intake control properties can help provide a more consistent supplementation.

Of ultimate importance is good pasture management.

No producer in today’s environment wants to see big areas of pasture going unused. It’s dollars per acre that aren’t translating to profit. Monitoring your pasture resources can help, as can adding protein and mineral supplements to bait cattle into underutilized pasture areas.  end mark

For more information on mineral and protein supplements, visit Purina/Mills Cattle-Feed or contact Kent Tjardes 

If cattle are reluctant to roam from water sources, they can be directed to other pasture areas with the proper placemsent of supplements. Progressive Cattleman staff photo.

Kent Tjardes