Pasture Management Terry E. Poole Extension Agent Frederick County, MD
Why Manage Pastures? Pastures are profitable * Grazed forage is a good, cheap feed. * Pastures are inexpensive to develop and maintain. * Animals do the harvesting, therefore there is a reduction in the need for machine harvesting, and forage handling. * While on pasture, animals spread manure in the field, reducing hauling.
Why Manage Pastures? Protects surface and groundwater from nutrient pollution. * Pastures act as a filler to screen out and trap soil particles, which contain nutrients such as N and P. * The captured nutrients are then utilized by the pasture plants once these nutrients have moved into the root zone of the soil.
Why Manage Pastures? Reduces soil erosion * The above ground growth of pasture plants lessons the impact of rain drops on the soil surface and also slows down the surface runoff of water across the field. * Pasture plant root systems bind the soil together, thereby holding it in place. * Most pastures keep the soil covered year around, unlike annual crops.
Why Manage Pastures? Improves forage yield and quality * Plants that are maintained at the optimum fertility level and are not stressed by pests or by poor grazing management will be more productive. * Healthy, productive plants will provide a quality product. * Healthy plants will have a higher nutritional value for grazing animals.
Why Manage Pastures? Reduces weeds and improves esthetics * Weeds are opportunistic; they will move rapidly into an open area or an area occupied by a weaker plant. * Weeds cannot gain a foothold in a field with vigorously growing plants. * A clean, weed free pasture reflects well on your farm management skills and how people passing by view your farm.
Grazing Management Protecting pasture plant root reserves and maintaining plants in a vegetative state are keys to a good pasture. Overgrazing reduces root reserves, which shrinks the root system and leads to fewer leaves being produced; plants also take longer to recover from grazing. Under grazing reduces quality and yield as over-mature plants become less vigorous and more fibrous.
Grazing Affects Plant Growth Wow, that stuff I learned in the pasture management class sure did work!
Forage Regrowth Slow to recover at first Rapid growth after recovery Slow after rapid growth period
A Good Grazing Rule of Thumb Take half -----------------------------Leave half In the long run, the animals will have more forage to graze. It is similar to priming the pump. Do you drink that cup of water, or do you risk it priming the pump for an unlimited supply?
Grass Morphology Each grass species tolerates grazing differently.
Influence of Stage of Growth on Plant Nutrient Content Red Clover Nutrients Stages of Growth %DMLeafy Bud E. Blm L. Blm C.P. 29.3 20.519.5 14.0 P 0.32 0.250.21 0.15 K 3.48 3.172.14 1.39 Mg 0.38 0.410.37 0.43 Ca 1.38 1.311.42 1.61 Source: Forage-Animal Management Systems by Roy Blaser
Influence of Stage of Growth on Plant Nutrient Content Orchardgrass Nutrient Stage of Growth %DMLeafy Boot Head Bloom C.P. 33.9 17.6 10.1 7.8 P 0.41 0.30 0.23 0.23 K 3.90 2.86 2.47 1.87 Mg 0.21 0.19 0.13 0.14 Ca 0.47 0.36 0.26 0.35 Source: Forage-Animal Management Systems by Roy Blaser
Clover will overtake grasses grazed down below 2 inches. Clovers recover more rapidly from close grazing than our cool season grasses, allowing a head start in growth. Grazing Management Controls Plant Growth and Pasture Composition
Why Timely Mowing? Mowing prevents plants from becoming over mature. Vegetative plants are more palatable and more nutritious. Mowing helps to control weeds. Flash grazing can work in place of mowing to help reduce excess forage in paddocks. Harvesting excess forage for hay is a good way to fully utilize forage resources.
Why Control Weeds? Weeds: Can get you in trouble, since some have been declared illegal noxious weeds by the State of Maryland. Will make you look bad, since they reflect poorly on your management.
Why Control Weeds? Weeds will: Reduce the stand of desirable plants. Reduce overall quality and yield. Reduce overall animal yield. Poison animals, or affect the animal product when dangerous plant species are present in the pasture. Spread their seeds through manure.
Weed Management Cultural Control * mowing * grazing * over seeding * improving fertility
Weed Management Chemical Control * 2,4-D * Banvel * Crossbow * Ally * Stinger * Spike * Roundup
Soil testing forms the base of pasture fertility management. Nutrient management planning not only pays, but is now the law. Fertility promotes healthy forage. Healthy forage resists disease and pests and speeds plant recovery. Why Plant Fertility Management?
Healthy forage recovers more rapidly from grazing, stress, and winter. Healthy forage is a more nutritious feed. Healthy forage stands resist weed infestations. Healthy forage stands produce higher yields. Healthy forage stands persist longer.
Grasses Need Nitrogen Applications Pure grass stands require timely applications of nitrogen (N). Pastures with less than 25% legumes are considered grass pastures. Pastures with 25% or more legumes do not require additional N. Legumes fix N 2 into a form plants can use (clovers,lespedeza, alfalfa, vetch, trefoil).
Animal Grazing Habits Different animal species have different grazing styles. *cattle and horses cannot eat forage less than one-half inch tall. *sheep and goats can graze level with the soil surface. *fowl will strip the soil bare, eating everything including roots, and insects.
Dont even think about it! Animal Grazing Habits Grazing animals have varied diet selections. *horses are picky eaters, rarely touching weeds and woody plants *goats prefer browse (woody plants) over grass Horses Cattle Sheep Goats Forage 90% 70% 60% 20% Weeds 4% 20% 30% 20% Browse 6% 10% 10% 60%
Animal Grazing Patterns The time spent grazing differs with animal species: *cattle graze about 8 hrs/day *sheep graze about 7 hrs/day or less *goats graze about 6 hrs/day or less *horses graze between 12 to 16 hrs/day
Animal Grazing Patterns Most animals prefer not to graze when it is hot: *heaviest grazing occurs 2 to 3 hours after sunset *another preferred grazing period occurs around midnight *on average, 60% of grazing occurs during the day *the other 40% occurs during periods of the night
Animal Grazing Patterns Grazing periods are not a factor of forage quality or yield. Forage quality is important so that good nutrition can be obtained by the animals during periods of grazing.
Animal Water Needs Grazing animals can get 70-90% of their water from lush forage, however a good supply of clean water is essential. Animal water needs vary with temperature, humidity, milk production, and diet. Average daily requirements: beef……………………………..8-10 gal/day milk cow…………………………. 30 gal/day sheep……………………………... 1 gal/day horses…………………………….. 8 gal/day
It protects pastures from damage. Sacrificial areas are for heavy use. Animals are held in this area when conditions are unsuitable for the pasture. It helps to minimize soil compaction and trampling of the sod. It provides an area for supplemental feeding and animal management. Why a Sacrificial Area? You cows sure make a mess!
Pasture Seeding New pasture - converting a crop field to pasture Pasture renovation - partial (over seeding) - complete (new seeding)
Pasture Seeding Pasture Seeding Considerations Complete vs partial renovation *slope of field (erosion potential) *existing weed population *existing forage base *conventional or no till seeding Spring vs Fall seeding *spring seeding can be challenging with weed competition, early heat
No Till Seeding Chemically destroys existing vegetation - Roundup, Gramoxone (Paraquat) These herbicides will not contaminate the soil, so seeding can be done immediately. No till protects against soil erosion. Poor Mans No Till or Frost Seeding - in late winter, graze down field, over seed field (animals and weather will work in seed), keep down vegetation until new plants can compete.
Conventional Seeding Mechanically disturbs soil and destroys existing plants (plow, disk). Usually requires complete renovation. Can be done without chemicals. Requires a lot of field work and trips over the field. Will bring up rocks. Soil erosion is a concern. Usually creates an excellent seedbed.
Pastures add to the pastoral beauty of farmland. They also help to protect the land by holding the soil in place.
Pasture Seeding Pasture Seeding Considerations Can animals be removed during the renovation process and forage establishment period? *often the overgrazing of new seedlings results in the subsequent loss of the new pasture. *new seedlings need time to develop a good root system and store energy for regrowth.
Pasture Seeding Pasture Seeding Considerations What is the purpose of your pasture? Hay or play? Will the pasture be expected to supply a significant portion of the feed ration? What are your forage management skills? These are questions that need to be addressed when selecting forage species to be seeded in your pasture.
Walking Your Fields Walking Your Fields Look at Your Soil Previously row cropped fields *If the previous crop was corn, soybeans, or another crop that may have had herbicides applied, investigate. What was used? *If you cant, be cautious. Carryover herbicides can be a problem. -consider planting a non-sensitive crop -care should be taken with liming the field (lime can release chemicals attached to soil particles)
Walking Your Field Walking Your Field Look at Your Soil Drainage *poorly drained soils limit what you can grow *soils that stay wet during peak times of the year will hamper pasture rotation *consider these fields for hay or strip grazing
Walking Your Fields Walking Your Fields Look at Your Soil Stony *unless you like picking up rocks, consider no till establishment/renovation in these types of fields Fertility *unless money is not a problem, consider forages with low fertility requirements and gradually add fertilizer inputs to build up your poor soil so that it can support better forages
Walking Your Fields Walking Your Fields Look at Field Location Wooded *beware of grazing in, or around wooded areas. Some poisonous plants can be found in these areas. Potential Winter Pasture *fields that have natural northern wind shelter (trees, hills), or are adjacent to a barn are good. * winter pastures need to be visible
Walking Your Fields Walking Your Fields Look at Field Location Slope * consider soil erosion potential if you need to renovate the field * the use of no till, forage selection (fast germinating species), or a nurse crop can minimize soil loss * will the slope limit the use of field equipment?
Walking Your Field Walking Your Field Look at Existing Vegetation Forage base *unless money is not a problem, try to work within the existing forage base. *if it has been there awhile, it is adapted to your site. *over seeding can improve on the existing forage base.
Walking Your Field Walking Your Field Look at Existing Vegetation Reclaiming a field *if a field is wild, or grown up in weeds, regular mowing will do wonders to reclaim an area. *spot treatment for perennial weeds may be needed. *if the field is still too trashy after mowing, reseed it. Natural regeneration is very slow and inefficient in this region.
Walking Your Fields Walking Your Fields Look at the Fences Existing fences *unless the existing fence is too decayed or simply cannot be worked into your plan, use it. *in some cases you will need to clean out trees, bushes, and weeds from around old fences *do not forget about gates; they need to be wide enough for equipment to pass