During the past couple weeks I’ve been unhappy about all the weeds in some of my pastures. What have I been doing wrong?
I’ve prided myself in keeping my pastures thick and vigorous enough to compete with weeds, but this year they got the best of me in some of my paddocks. Common ragweed was the worst, with foxtail and barnyardgrass next.
Why did the weeds get so abundant this year? The grass was thick and heavy all spring and early summer because of all the early rain we received. That should have at least kept the annual ragweed down. Or so I thought. I have well over a dozen paddocks in my pasture. And weeds weren’t bad in all of them. They all had more than the usual but three of them got especially weedy.
I have a theory as to why the weeds were bad, but mind you, it’s only my theory. After the abundant spring rains and excessive grass growth, I went through a period of around six weeks that received less than one inch of rain. Pastures still grew but the top soil got really dry and hard. Then I received one rain of nearly 3 inches that really softened the top soil.
Cattle were grazing one of the paddocks that eventually got weedy and quickly moved into and through the other real weedy paddocks. These paddocks contain the most cool-season bunch grasses like orchardgrass and fescue, with very little brome to form a more solid sod. So they also got real rough and cut up. So I suspect weeds grew where cattle hooves cut into the wet soil.
No matter whether my theory is right or wrong, now I need to help the orchardgrass and fescue recover well so they compete with the weeds.
And I’m feeling a bit more humble. Live and learn.
Bruce Anderson is a hay and forage professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. He can be reached at 402-472-6237.