Cattle on pasture

Abundant spring moisture has led to a lot of forage growth in pastures.

Pasture conditions are decent through much of Iowa, but a recent heat wave could be cutting into productivity.

Rebecca Vittetoe, Iowa State University Extension agronomist in Washington, Iowa, says parts of southeast and east central Iowa have been missing rains over the past two weeks, causing pasture growth to slow.

This follows a wet spring that saw growth get out of hand for many producers.

“It was slow coming on, and then it just took off,” Vittetoe says. “It was difficult for some producers to stay ahead of it.”

Many producers have been able to bale their second cutting of hay, and Vittetoe says there is some disappointment over yield results. This comes in the wake of reports of poor quality and smaller quantities after a spring season that saw rain delay the first cutting.

She says the dry spell has given weeds the opportunity to re-establish in pastures. Additionally, there are reports of leafhoppers in the alfalfa stands.

“You will want to scout your fields and see if that needs to be addressed,” Vittetoe says. “If you cut hay, you will want to go out in seven to 10 days to scout again.”

She says fall fertilization could provide a late-season productivity boost.

“Watch the forecast, and if it looks like there is a good chance for some rain, putting on some nitrogen could give those cool-season grasses some additional fall growth,” Vittetoe says. Late August could be a good time to add the nitrogen.

Joel DeJong, Iowa State University Extension agronomist in Le Mars, says moisture has been plentiful in northwest Iowa, allowing cool-season grasses to keep growing.

He adds hay tonnage has been good this year, despite some winterkill issues.

“We did see some losses in alfalfa stands, much more than we had seen in recent years,” DeJong says. “Some of those fields got hit pretty hard.”

He says hay tonnage was low going into the winter, which translated into cows heading out to pasture before the grass was ready. DeJong says most of those pastures have recovered, and he expects pasture conditions to remain good with normal rainfall over the course of July and August.

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.