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Fall pasture management more important this year


By Jerrold Tesmer

Fri, Sep 28th, 2012
Posted in All Agriculture

Source: John Zinn, NRCS Grazing Specialist

Pastures and Producers experienced stress this year. Get your pastures ready for winter and prepared for next year’s growing season by taking action this fall.

Soil Test …Don’t Guess!

If you haven’t taken soil tests in the last four years, consider soil sampling your pastures. Use the same steps as your cropland. Take a 6 inch deep sample at random locations across the pasture. Avoid manure and urine spots or places where livestock congregate. Get 20 samples per 5 acres and mix in a clean bucket. Mix the samples thoroughly and place in a soil sample bag. Once you get the results consider fall applications of fertilizer and lime to correct any deficiencies. Plants that are in good condition going into the winter will do better next spring.

Keep pastures tall going into winter.

Both animals and plants store nutrients in fall to help them survive winter. Plant leaves catch light to make carbohydrates which are stored in root and stolons. If the pasture has been grazed short, there is not enough leaf area to store food. Pull animals off the pasture when the stubble height is 4-6” for cool season introduced pastures and 8 inches or better for tall warm season grasses such as big bluestem, Indiangrass, or switchgrass.

Thinking about adding legumes to your pasture?

Intentionally overgraze the pasture you want to interseed. This reduces competition from grasses and allows light penetration of the canopy. Early next spring when the ground thaws during the day and freezes at night, you’ll be able to either broadcast seed on top of the ground or later when the ground is fit for tillage and somewhat moist, no-till drill seed into the pasture. Consider lining these up now to prepare for later.

Fall Weed Control

Spot spraying or broadcast applications of herbicide work well in the fall because weeds are also preparing for winter by sending plant nutrients and herbicides to the root system for storage. Remember, herbicides that kill broadleaves also will usually kill legumes.

My thanks to John Zinn, NRCS Grazing Specialist for providing the information for this article. John can be reached at john.zinn@mn.usda.gov or 507-289-7454 ext. 115.

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