As row crop producers work to bring fields back from damage caused by an overly wet year, ranchers must begin repairing their pastures from flood damage.
Getting a root structure back to promote good growth is key, said Scott Flynn, a Corteva field specialist.
Flynn grew up in Kentucky and got his degree focusing on forage and animal production. Over the last nine years, he has worked with Corteva to control weeds and promote good forages for grazing cattle.
Over the last two years, Flynn has seen a worrying trend that spans agriculture — a wet cycle that gives farmers less and less time in the fields. It’s hard on pastures as well.
“Generally when you have a really wet spring we just aren’t getting good root growth. We start off on the wrong foot right away,” he said. “They get into the field as soon as they can but usually the work they can do is fairly limited.”
Because of this, Flynn said he’s seen an explosion of annual broadleaf weeds and weedy grasses appear in pastures that generally have no issue with the invasive plants. Soggy weather makes for thin pastures, and weeds start encroaching on the right grasses. Flynn worries that without proper management many pastures will fall into disrepair.
Flynn urges ranchers need to get in touch with their local cooperatives to get a good supply of fertilizer for the coming year. Letting the weeds go for just one year makes them all the more difficult to manage. They’ll regret it if it goes another year without attention, Flynn said.
“It’s going to suppress the regrowth and recovery of our fall pastures,” he said.
He suggests adding 25 to 30 pounds of nitrogen, along with phosphorous and potassium early in the year. It will give a leg up on fertility, he said.
Managing pastures isn’t usually a place where producers invest their time and resources.
When the pastures are ready, Flynn said a good rotational grazing program can help alleviate some of the weather-related stressors. Moving the cattle from paddock to paddock once or twice a week can make a world of difference, he said. The absolutely longest time Flynn said he suggests rotating is every 30 days, but the overall goal is to make sure the pasture always stays above 4 inches of growth.
“It’s going to help regrowth of that forage grass,” he said.
The other benefit to quick rotational grazing is that cattle like new growth grass the best, and cool-season grasses grow very quickly in the early spring months.
“For an animal, that young regrowth is just too appealing to them. They’ll go back and regraze areas they already went through,” Flynn said.
With return on investment becoming the main focus across agriculture, Flynn said rotational grazing instead of stored feed should be top of mind. He estimated that the cost of feeding hay was around $1.50 to $1.75 per head per day.
While many ranchers are eager to get their cattle out of pasture in the spring, Flynn urges producers to understand that turning them out too quickly only hurts your operation.
“As soon as there is the slightest bit of green in the field people immediately turn out their cattle and cause damage to the pastures,” he said.
Due to the poor conditions of many of the pastures, Flynn recommends that producers plant serial wheat or rye. The crop can be grazed early in the spring while pastures get a longer recovery.
Above all else, Flynn urges producers to put some thought into managing pastures. Doing nothing is the wrong approach to take on any agricultural ground, not just pastures, he said.
“If you have weeds in your pastures this year, you’ll have weeds in your pastures next year. There is no need to wait to see what comes out,” he said. “Be proactive. Plan ahead. Work with your coops and local reps to get a plan in place.”
Jager Robinson can be reached at email@example.com.