A Pasture Savings Account

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Pastures are like a savings account, the more time and effort that you put in, the more return on your investment. In order to have a productive pasture, there are several yearly maintenance tasks that need to be accomplished.

First, producers should take soil samples to determine what their pastures require for optimum fertility. Anything less is purely a guess. By knowing what your pastures require, you can get the most out of your fertilizer dollars, which is vital to profitability. Over fertilizing forages with an improper soil ph will not maximize production. By using proper fertilizer rates and adjusting soil pH levels, yields will be increased to optimum levels and producers can set the stage for long-term forage productivity.

Cool season pastures will always suffer varying degrees of stand loss, and fall is ideal to reseed fescue and Orchardgrass. Try to fill in bare spots, and feeding areas to prevent weed invasion. By preventing avenues of opportunity, producers can lessen weed problems, as they will fill these bare areas if you do not. Also, research has shown that increased fly populations can result, from round bale feeding areas. The problem is that the mud, manure and wasted hay around hay rings can create an ideal environment for stable fly production. By cleaning up these areas and reseeding them, producers can actually lower stable fly populations. That is an added bonus that alone makes it worth the effort. The job of reseeding can be done most effectively with a no-till drill as this ensures good seed to soil contact, and I remind you that the Burke Soil and Water Conservation District has one for rent at a cost of eight dollars per acre, or a forty dollar minimum for less than five acres.

Seeding clovers into existing grass stands is also a great idea, as some Ladino varieties can return up to 150 lbs of nitrogen to the soil, which greatly reduces fertilizer requirements and also reduces the effects of the fescue endophyte fungus. Producers are encouraged to maintain at least 25 % clover to help soil fertility and increase weight gains during the summer slump. Clover can be frost seeded in February and early March, with a high degree of success, by simply broadcasting clover on a cold morning when the ground is frozen. The freezing and thawing of the soil will act to incorporate the seed into the ground. Be sure that the seed has been inoculated or inoculate yourself, because if not, it will not return any nitrogen to the soil. Ladino clover lends itself well to grazing and 2 to 4 lbs of seed to the acre is ideal. Red clover can be used as well, at 4 to 6 lbs. of seed to the acre.

Red clover will tolerate poorer soils and lower soil pH levels, so it has a place in our forage production. Producers could choose to seed both types in their pastures, and the truth is, the more variety of forages you have, the better off you are.

When renovating pastures, make it a point to give them the added rest time they need to recover and for young seedlings to become established before grazing them. Give them time to grow, or you have wasted your time and money.

By planning now and using best management practices, livestock producers can reduce input costs, and make a valiant effort to retain as wide a profit margin as possible. Changing economies and inflation are inevitable, but producers should continue to invest in their pasture savings account and benefit from the interest.