By Brian Hefty
Your pasture is just as much of a crop as your corn, soybeans, and wheat. Your pasture, when managed well, can be super-productive. When your grass is fed a well-balanced diet, your livestock will be healthier and need fewer supplements and medicine. While your pasture production may not be as important to you as planting your field crops this spring, pasture management is crucial if you want improved profitability in your operation. Below are 5 things we suggest you consider this spring.
- Grid or zone soil test. Please do not do composite testing, where you pull a few soil cores across a big pasture, mix them together, and get one result. Your pastures have tremendous variability, just like your crop fields do. Composite sampling would be just like having 5 kids ages 2 to 18, taking the average, and feeding them the same. The infant needs something different and a different quantity than the 18 year-old, right? Same thing in your pastures. Use grid or zone sampling to find out where in your pastures you need to invest money and where you don’t. Make sure you get complete tests. Maybe your pasture just needs nitrogen, but I’ll bet some of your land also needs sulfur, micronutrients, and possibly a soil pH change. You don’t know unless you test.
- Freelexx or dicamba. Freelexx is the new 2,4-D choline. This is a DRAMATIC improvement in terms of drift and volatility reduction. We’ve even had people in cities near sensitive areas using this product with great success. Quit using old 2,4-D. Start using Freelexx. There is also a premix of Freelexx plus Tordon called Graslan. When spraying pastures, keep in mind, too, that Xtend crops are still sensitive to 2,4-D, but they are not sensitive to dicamba. For that reason, we have been spraying pastures with dicamba when Xtend fields are nearby. By the way, Milestone is the best thistle product. Chaparral is the best brush herbicide, and Tordon is tops on leafy spurge. All 3 have crazy long residual, so if you use them, your pasture needs to stay in grass for many years.
- RyzUp SmartGrass. Gibberellic acid has been proven for years to increase stem elongation. Plants produce adequate gibberellic acid when the weather is warm, but not when it’s cold. By spraying your pasture in the spring and fall, you should be able to extend grazing by a couple weeks on each end. We have seen 6” to 12” of additional grass growth from a $3 to $4 investment. This is an absolute no-brainer in pastures and silage corn. If you haven’t tried this before, do some test strips this spring. After you do, you’ll be treating the whole pasture this fall and next spring.
- Rotational grazing. Pasture productivity is greatly improved when you regularly move your livestock from one area to another. Study up on this a little bit and put it into action. You may be surprised at how much more grass is produced just from regular and brief idling.
- Put your heart into it. I know pasture ground isn’t as exciting as cropland for most people, but if you haven’t been doing many or any of the things I listed above, it’s very likely that within 2 years you can increase your grass production by 50%! That’s a lot of extra money that could be in your bank account. Plus, if you love your animals, you will want to feed them the most nutritious grass possible. You can accomplish that, but it’s going to take more than throwing some urea out in the spring and spraying a few weeds as your only management steps.