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Pasture Mixtures

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Date:  July 16, 2021
Agent:  Damon Pollard

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Burke Center. Today’s topic is Pasture Mixtures.

An often asked question I receive is what should I plant in my pasture. My answer is always the same, as many different varieties as possible. That invariably confuses but there is value in a complex mixture as opposed to one or two grasses and legumes. A pasture is a diverse plant community by nature and ecological principles can provide some valuable insights  for livestock producers. Combining two functional forages such as grasses and legumes has long been known in pasture management. Because these groups fill different niches within the pasture, they use and contribute resources in different ways and effectively enhance each other’s performance. An additional group would be the forbs, also known as weeds, and they occur in pastures with chickory being one that strongly enhances forage value.

Within these groups there are many species, each having their own unique set of qualities which make it valuable in certain situations. By planting a complex mixture of forage species we are more likely to create a setting in which well adapted plant communities develop. These communities are better able to respond to stresses such as weather and soil variations within the pasture, as well as seasonally to climatic changes. Most pastures lack uniformity and the complex forage mixtures are important where slope, soil type and other factors cause large variations within the single field.

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Burke Center.