As any industrial farmer will confirm, pasture maintenance is no easy task. If you’re one of the farmers that haphazardly start throwing seeds and fertilizer on the ground when the occasion calls, now is the time to turn things around.
Good pasture management and scaling begin with knowing what you have. Below, we’ve compiled 5 essential tips on how to take your pastures to scale this grazing season.
1. Consider Buying Used Equipment
Of course, equipment will play a major role in scaling your pastures. Investing in new machinery can be expensive, so consider buying used equipment as a cost-effective alternative. Used machinery is typically well-maintained, so you can rest assured that it will last for years. We recommend buying and selling your agricultural equipment with Grays.
2. Implement Regular Soil Testing
While many farmers are skilled pasture scouts, there are some things that walking a pasture will never solve, no matter how much experience you have.
One of these things is identifying soil fertility. If you can’t remember the last time you collected samples from your soil, now is the time to conduct some soil testing.
Regularly testing your soil lets you know what nutrients your soil may or may not need. While there are certain plant species that can hint at poor soil fertility, there’s no way of knowing exactly what is wrong and how to remedy it.
Only a properly collected and tested soil sample will tell you how much lime, potassium, phosphorus, and other nutrients your pastures need.
We recommend sampling your soil every two to three years and applying fertilizers only as needed.
Nitrogen, however, can be used yearly without a soil test in most circumstances. Testing your soil is the best way to learn what is lacking and how exactly you can scale your pastures.
It also prevents you from spending unnecessary money on fertilizers, pesticides, or lime if there is no particular need for them.
To get your soil tested, reach out to a local extension agent or a nearby testing facility.
3. Pay Attention To Identifying Weeds
Weed prevention is vital when it comes to pasture scaling. Pasture scouting helps with identifying the types and number of weeds that are growing and then identifying the best method to counter them.
The type of weeds presents also hints at what is lacking in your pasture management. Here are some of the most common types of weeds you are likely to encounter, plus what they mean.
- Buttercup – A growth of buttercup could signify overgrazing, particularly in the winter season, as this weed germinates in late winter.
- Wild Violet and Horse Nettle – These weeds are super tough to control. If these are present even in small quantities, you may have to use harsher herbicides to get rid of them.
- Seed Heads – You should be wary of all seed heads in your pasture. Weed seed heads will only plant more seeds, so make sure to mow them off at the earliest. This is because when grass begins to produce seed heads, most of the plant’s energy is consumed in producing the seeds and not growing. This can negatively impact your pasture quality and growth, especially since most grasses do not naturally reseed themselves readily.
- Nimblewill – If you have nimblewill growth, this probably points to an overly aggressive spray program and poor overseeding success. This can happen because excessive spraying creates bare spaces in the pasture where nimblewill can quickly spread.
- Broomsedge – These point to a poorly fertilized pasture. A simple soil test can help you identify what exactly is missing.
You should consider investing in several pull-behind boom sprayers or large-scale weeding machines so you can get rid of the weeds before they go to seed. Weed growth can seriously hinder your pasture scaling program, so make sure to take this very seriously.
If you are having trouble identifying what type of weeds are growing or how to get rid of them, we recommend reaching out to a local extension office for help.
4. Consider Brush-Hogging
Brush hogging should be an essential step in your pasture management routine. Brush hogging refers to removing overgrown foliage such as dead grass, vines, and weeds, allowing the soil to breathe, retain moisture, and be suitable for farming again.
Brush hogging is also a great way to deal with weed growth. Keeping your pastures clipped and clean keeps the grass in a vegetative state, meaning they continue growing, and do not enter the reproductive state where they use nutrients for seed production.
Finally, brush hogging is helpful for maintaining forage quality and reducing grazing patterns. Once livestock has grazed and moved on to the next field, brush hogging can counteract the tendency of animals to only graze in certain areas, boosting overall pasture health and growth.
5. Watch Out For Overgrazing
One of the biggest parts of growing a dense, green, rich pasture is knowing when to remove the animals from the field.
Overgrazing is a severe problem that can lead to weed growth and also deter pasture growth and health in many different ways. If the grass is over-grazed, it may not regrow, causing your pasture to die out completely.
Knowing when to stop grazing and start stockpiling a pasture is essential to increase the grazing reason and reduce supplemental feeding. Experts recommend not letting your animals graze below 3-4 inches on cool-season grasses and 6-8 inches on warm-season varieties.
If you follow a rotational grazing program, you should allow at least 21-28 days for fields to recover and grow before beginning again. You can also choose to separate certain areas from grazing fields to allow them to reseed themselves and grow into native varieties.
For another interesting agricultural read, check out our post on How Software Helps The Agriculture Industry And Business.
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