To a young grass seedling, the size and grazing habits of the livestock on a pasture can mean total destruction. Every pasture will experience the loss of plant material because the plants could not survive the traffic of livestock. Certain species are more sensitive to trampling. Stage of maturity also influences the effect of heavy traffic. Livestock size also is important. Trampling, or treading as it is termed in some references, damages pastures of all soil types, soil moisture levels, plant species, or livestock species. Forage yields are reduced most when animals are allowed to graze plants on wet soils. Trampling is more detrimental on clay soils than sandy soils. Shorter forage may be more damaged than tall forages if the stand is not well established, and trampling promotes more prostrate than erect growth. And, of course, trampling packs the soil which reduces the moisture infiltration into the soil.
The above information can lead a manager to consider what species will best tolerate livestock traffic. Then grass growth and regrowth concepts can be applied to the specific grazing system. For example, perennial ryegrass and white clover mixtures are more tolerant of trampling because of the prostrate growth habit of white clover than a mixture of orchardgrass and red clover, an upright clover. Reed canarygrass can be very resistant to trampling if managed properly. Switchgrass and big bluestem are flood tolerant warm season grasses. Cross fencing might also be considered if pastures have some sloping areas that could be saved for rainy periods.