Late winter is the time to really get the ball rolling in the right direction for a successful, upcoming grazing season. Producers need to act now to take the proper steps to set their operation up to maximize grazing this year. Below are four management areas to evaluate to start off on the right foot.

1. Soil Fertility - Early season soil testing is the first area to consider when preparing for the upcoming grazing season. By sampling ahead of the growing season, there is still enough time to properly apply fertilizer and lime based on results. Soil tests should be conducted every three to four years. Each pasture should be sampled to account for differences between areas. Also, areas within a pasture that would vary greatly in nutrient content should be sampled separately. This would include places like feeding areas, around livestock loafing and shaded areas. Core samples should be taken to a depth of four inches, with a total of 10-12 samples taken per pasture to provide a representative sample. Soil sample bags can be obtained from your local County Extension office and more details on the soil sampling process can be found by following the link to the UK publication “Taking Soil Test Samples”:

2. Buttercup Control - Control of buttercup in pastures and hay fields needs to be considered early in the year before producers see the plant’s identifying yellow flowers in the spring. When flowers begin to appear plants are near maturity and start to produce new seed. Buttercups may emerge in the fall, but most of their vegetative growth occurs during the late winter and early spring months. The first step in controlling this weed, or any weed for that matter, is scouting fields and identifying the problem and its intensity. Once identified as a problem, buttercup control depends on the pasture. For grass pastures, chemical control with herbicides can be effective. Herbicide application should occur in early spring (late February-March); however, consideration must be given to any potential grazing, haying, or animal harvest withdraw times after application. Grass pastures interseeded with legumes, like clover or alfalfa, could be severely damaged or killed by herbicides. One approach to reduce buttercup populations is proper grazing management throughout the year. These weeds thrive in over-grazed areas that have poor stands of desirable forages. Maintaining proper ground cover by managed grazing, will limit buttercup emergence. For more information on controlling buttercups and other weeds refer to the UK publication Weed Management in Grass Pastures, Hayfields, and Other Farmstead Sites by following the link:

3. Frost Seeding - Mid-February to early March is the perfect time to frost seed in Kentucky. Frost seeding allows for the natural freeze-thaw cycles to work seeds into the soil. Several legumes, like red and white clover, can be successfully frost seeded. Adding legumes to pastures offer many benefits including increased soil fertility, improved forage quality, reduced fescue toxicosis, and more summer growth. As mentioned, red and white clovers are the predominant choices in renovating pastures by using frost seeding. Other options that have shown success with frost seeding establishment include: Birdsfoot trefoil and Annual lespedeza. Few grass species have shown successful establishment with frost seeding. Prior to frost seeding, the pasture should be grazed or cut closely and residue removed to allow for maximum seed to soil contact. After seeding, continue to reduce competition from existing forages and weeds for successful establishment. This may require mowing or grazing to allow new legume plants to grow and develop to at least 3 to 4 inches in height. For more information on frost seeding and renovating pastures follow the link to the UK publication Renovating Hay and Pasture Fields:

4. Hi-Mag Mineral - As spring approaches, so does the concern of preventing grass tetany in animals grazing lush, fast growing cool season pastures. Grass tetany is a metabolic disorder that is caused by low levels of magnesium in the animal’s blood. The disorder is most commonly seen in older cows that are lactating, but can be seen in all other classes of cattle. Symptoms include: nervousness, muscle spasms, poor coordination, staggering and death. Immediate veterinarian treatment of animals suspected to be suffering from grass tetany is required as earlier treatment increases the chances for saving animals. With most cases, prevention is the best medicine and providing animals with a high magnesium (high-mag) mineral supplement can often lessen the occurrence of grass tetany. A general rule to prevent grass tetany is to provide a high-mag mineral supplement at least 30 days prior to calving. High-mag minerals can be purchased from most feed stores or dealers and include higher inclusions of magnesium oxide compared to other complete mineral mixes. Feeding these high-mag minerals can be discontinued once daily temperatures are consistently 60˚F or above and grass is more mature. For more information on Grass Tetany follow the link to the UK publication Forage Related Cattle Disorders: Hypomagnesemic Tetany or “Grass Tetany”: