Farm Talk

August 21, 2012

Plan now to increase next year’s forage


Parsons, Kansas — “The most economical forage harvesters you have are livestock. They don’t need diesel and they drive themselves,” says Pat Miller, University of Missouri Extension Agronomy specialist. She recommends producers start planning now to increase their forage for next year. It has been noted that low fertility fields are more likely to have stands reduced following a drought. So once we have enough rain to allow the soil to be probed, Miller suggests taking a soil test. A good test consists of 20 to 30 six-inch cores taken from the field and mixed together. For more information, see guide MU Extension guide sheet G9217. Many pastures receive only nitrogen fertilizer annually and, over time, phosphate and potash levels go down.

The drought and heat have taken their toll on the forages so stands may need to be over-seeded with grasses or legumes. Seeding should be delayed until adequate moisture will allow for the newly seeded plants to root deeply. Legumes can be “frost seeded” by mixing the seeds with a winter fertilizer application. The freezing and thawing of the soil will work the legume seed into the ground. Another way to plant the grass and legume seed would be to drill the seed next spring. Many Soil & Water Conservation Districts have drills available for rent.

If brushy weeds have taken over the field and herbicide use is warranted, seeding may need to be delayed for several years. Be sure to check herbicide labels for planting restrictions. Some may restrict legume planting for over a year or until a field bioassay is done. Miller explains that the process for a bioassay involves taking some of the treated soil and planting seeds in it to see how they grow.

Miller notes that rotational grazing will stretch short forage supplies. Using fences to divide pastures into smaller paddocks will increase utilization of forage supplies by reducing forage waste due to trampling and selective grazing. If allowed to pick and choose, livestock will keep going back to the new regrowth and avoid areas with mature growth. Rotational grazing will also help manure to be more evenly distributed across the pastures, reducing fertilizer needs.

“Feeding hay is expensive,” Miller says. So make plans now to better utilize pastures for your forage needs.

For more information, contact specialist’s name, number, e-mail or visit your local Extension Center or £