Healthy, unstressed plants will begin to grow earlier in the spring, produce more during the summer, and continue later in the fall.
To get the most out of your pastures:
In spring - rapid spring growth produces up to half the annual production
- Start animals early on firm, well-drained pastures.
- Graze fields 1 to 2 times in the early spring and hay later.
- Put animals in when grass is 6 to 8 inches. Take them out when grass is 2 to 3 inches.
- Make hay or bring in additional animals to take advantage of increased growth in the spring.
In summer - non-irrigated pasture
- Leave more than 3 inches of grass to cool ground and conserve moisture on hill pastures. Feed hay and grain to rest a cool-season pasture that is not irrigated.
- Mow to remove weed seed heads, and drag a chain to expose parasites in manure droppings.
- Spot-spray troublesome weeds, following label directions.
- As fall approaches, graze dormant pastures low enough to expose the plant crown to fall rains.
In fall - rains restart pasture growth
- Graze animals on fall growth and leave at least 3 inches of grass.
- Test soil fertility and pH for pastures to be seeded next year. Lime if needed.
- Take animals off pastures by November 1 if soils are wet or grass is short.
In winter - wet soils signal pasture rest
- Take animals off of wet soils and confine them to the heavy use area or a well-drained pasture. This is one of the most important things you can do for wet pastures. Deep hoof prints and a chopped up ground surface are signs that soils are too wet to pasture. Saturated soils are common from November through March.
- Use grassed buffer strips around animal yards and heavy use areas. The grass will trap sediments and nutrients that may runoff from this area.
- Use controlled grazing on well-drained pastures where grasses are actively growing. Light cattle or sheep will control winter annual weeds.
- Graze no lower than 3 inches.