Fertilize for Early Pasture

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Burke county livestock producers may be able to reduce hay requirements by fertilizing pastures and getting animals out on pastures earlier than usual this spring. Research has shown that light applications of nitrogen applied in late February and March will provide maximum response in five to six weeks. 

Maximum benefit comes from planning. Pastures fertilized early and grazed will need six weeks to recover in mid-summer or early autumn. When fertilizer is applied in late February or early March additional growth should be evident in about 2 weeks. After five to six weeks, pastures should have made enough response to start grazing. 

The best candidates for early fertilization would be pastures with a southern exposure or south facing slopes, for maximum exposure to sunlight. Your best soils and most productive forages will respond more than unproductive sites, making the practice more profitable.

In general, no more than one third of total pastureland should be treated with only nitrogen fertilizer. Treating more than this will disrupt the seasonal distribution of available forage.

It should be noted that an increased incidence of grass tetany could occur, so magnesium supplementation should be an integral part of any early fertilization program.

Damon Pollard
Extension Agent