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Pastures having problems; meeting Thursday

By Brad Johnson
For the Salisbury Post
Mother Nature has not been kind to livestock pastures and hay fields in the past six to eight months.
She baked cool season grasses in June and July, causing many stands to be thinned by the heat, which resulted in a very poor or non-existent fall hay cutting.
In that same time-frame, we’ve not had any extra moisture to spur producers to re-seed or re-establish their pastures. All of this has resulted in many pastures being over-grazed and short on essential root-reserves through the winter.
I’m anticipating pastures will be in even poorer condition this spring unless they receive some much-needed tender loving care in the next few months.
First and foremost, when was the last time a producer had his or her hay fields and pastures soil sampled? Yes, any type of fertilizer is expensive. No question about it, but without adequate nutrition, producers and forages will experience a snowball effect.
Grasses will be even slower to recover, causing more invasive weed pressure, poorer quality grass stands, poorer livestock performance (slower growth, less milk production, poorer re-breeding performance, the need for more supplemental feed to maintain body condition. Have you seen commodity prices lately? WOW!), and eventually the need to completely re-establish a pasture or hay field. And again, without adequate nutrition, the resulting re-established forage stand will probably be less than satisfactory. The net result of all that is the producer’s expense in lost production and re-establishment.
Still think providing additional nutrition to a pasture is too expensive? According to data from North Carolina State University Professor of Animal Science Dr. Matt Poore, it can take 6 acres to graze a cow for six months if no nitrogen is applied, compared to less than 2 acres with applied nitrogen. In some cases, the cost per cow can be reduced by using more nitrogen.
Soil sample kits are available at the Rowan County Cooperative Extension Office 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and testing by the NCDA&CS lab in Raleigh is free. Don’t wait until the last minute.
When is the ideal time to reseed a pasture or hay field of cool season grasses (tall fescue, orchardgrass, rescuegrass, etc.) or legumes (alfalfa, ladino clover, red clover, etc.) in need of inter-seeding?
Ideally in the fall, from late August through the end of October, depending on soil moisture. However, late winter, from mid-February to the end of March, also may work very well. I’ve seen pastures seeded in late January with 10 inches of snow on them the end of February result in the most beautiful, lush stand of MaxQ endophyte neutral tall fescue in April.
One of the major requirements to a successful re-seeding project, regardless of the time of year, is to allow the forage to establish itself before any livestock is introduced to the field.
Confining livestock to a sacrifice area until newly established forages are ready to be grazed, plus allowing over-grazed pastures to rest and re-establish root reserves is highly recommended.
Another idea for producers to consider is seeding annual warm season grasses (for example, pearl millet, sorghum, Sudangrass) this spring (ideally May) and then reseed cool season grasses this fall. The annual warm season forage will allow producers to graze or harvest hay this summer and then have a more ideal environment to establish cool season grasses in the fall.
A Pasture Management Meeting is scheduled for Thursday at the Rowan County Ag Center, 2727 Old Concord Road. The meeting will begin with a sponsored meal at 6:30 p.m. Fertility and pasture management options will be discussed.
Scott Goodwin, Dow Chemical representative, will discuss weed control options, while I will discuss Pasture Economics.
Please call the Southern States store at 704-636-4271 to make meal reservations.
Brad Johnson is an extension agent in agriculture-livestock and dairy with the Rowan County Cooperative Extension.

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