Assessing Pasture: Forage Identification

When planning a grazing management plan for your pastures, it’s important to realize that pasture is the most economical and efficient way to feed your animals. When managing pasture, both the animal nutrient needs and pasture requirements should be considered. To start, begin by identifying the forage species in a pasture. Next estimate how much of it is there. During most of the spring and fall in Kentucky, you will find cool-season grasses along with some legumes.

Renovating Pastures

Multiple reasons exist for the need to reseed pastures such as; old stands that are dying out causing bare spots, to reduce number of undesirable weeds and forages, introduce a new forage species, control forage-related disorders, among many other causes. When deciding what forage species to seed, pasture conditions need to be assessed, such as current plant species, amount of bare ground, soil type, location, and season. The livestock species and their nutrient needs should also be taken into consideration.

Inoculating Legume Seed

Although there are many benefits of using legumes in pastures, one of the most desirable is the ability of these plants to fix atmospheric nitrogen.  This can increase yields and quality while significantly reducing fertilizer costs.  Nitrogen fixation is the result of the symbiotic relationship between the plant and rhizobium bacteria.  Rhizobia form nodules on the roots of the plant and allow the plant to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form of nitrogen that can be utilized by plants.

Purchasing Quality Seed

Nitrogen applications may allow for earlier grazingIt’s time for those planning on seeding pastures or hayfields this spring to begin preparing.  Whether renovating pastures, converting cropland into pasture, establishing a new species into an existing stand, or reestablishing winter feeding areas and other high traffic areas, it is important to purch

Successful Seeding

Successful seedingSeed is the basic building block to a forage or crop stand. Whether establishing a new stand or improving an old stand, actions can be taken to ensure that newly planted seed produces a healthy stand. Seed is one of the cheaper inputs into a grazing system, and this cost should be offset by pasture production.

When to Reseed Pastures

Multiple reasons exists for needing to reseed pasture, such as old stands that are dying out or stands that need to be improved due to poor management, disease, to fill in bare spots, or to reduce weed problems. When deciding what forage species to seed, determine future goals and plans for the pasture in question. Common goals may be grazing, harvesting for hay or silage, supply quick ground cover, or to fill in bare areas. The current conditions need to be assessed, such as current species, amount of bare ground, soil type, location, and season.

How to Use Variety Trial Publications

When renovating or establishing pastures, an important consideration is the selection of forage species and varieties. Forage species, as well as varieties within a species, vary significantly in yield, quality, and stand persistence, which combine to greatly impact performance and economic return to the operation. In addition to choosing an appropriate variety, proper seeding rates and seedbed preparation are necessary for the successful establishment of the selected variety.

Soil Testing

Taking soil samples during the fall of the year allows the farmer time to have the fertilizer applied well before grasses start to grow in the spring. Most pasture fields should be sampled every three to four years. If you use a field strictly for cutting hay from or for annual row crops, and nutrients get removed and not added back, you should soil test annually.

Dragging and Clipping Pastures

Feeding costs are the greatest expense for livestock producers. Grazing is the cheapest source of feed. Dragging and mowing pastures are two methods that are often used to attempt to increase forage production and soil fertility. Although these practices are useful agronomically, they may not be practical economically.

Growth of Grasses and Legumes

Good grazing management will result in improved pasture yields. Understanding how plants grow allows for better management decisions as to when to move livestock under different growing conditions. This article will focus on growth occurring after grazing or mowing. All plants require water, nutrients, and energy to grow. The current season, climate, and other environmental factors also affect plant growth.