Extension Agent: Learn pasture management strategies

April 6, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 5, 2010 at 11:06 p.m.

By Sam Womble

What defines a good manager? Is it the fact that he or she has a plan and pays attention to detail?

A good pasture manager is aware of his surroundings and understands how weather, events and his individual actions will affect the operation.

We have been blessed with some beneficial rains that have positioned us for a good growing season.

As the soil temperature begins to warm up, it's important to be thinking about how much forage you need to produce.

The amount of forage you need will be dependent on the number, size and type of livestock you intend to graze. Generally speaking, cattle are stocked at 1:5 for good (improved) pastures and 1:15 for average (native) pastures.

Remember the 50/50 rule - take half and leave half. If we assume that cattle have a 25 percent grazing efficiency, then our goal should be to stock pastures at 75 percent capacity.

The first step in a pasture-management plan should be collecting a soil sample. Soil sampling will enable you to set some production goals and manage your inputs toward a specific productivity level. To produce a ton of forage, a 5-1-4 analysis of primary nutrients is required.

Nitrogen is our most limiting nutrient and under the best conditions, plants only utilize 65 to 70 percent of nitrogen. The remainder is lost through volatilization and leaching.

Soil sample probes, bags and worksheets are available at the extension office. Once you receive the results from the laboratory, it's suggested to fertilize accordingly.

Consider investing your fertilizer dollars in your best, most-productive pastures, first. If you use a liquid fertilizer product, consider tank mixing a pasture herbicide along with it to control weeds.

If you only have money to do one thing, control the weeds as opposed to applying fertilizer. Studies have shown that for every one pound of weeds controlled, up to seven pounds of forage can be grown.

This spring and summer plan to control problem weed and brush species such as broomweed, red sorrel, green flatsedge, huisache and Macartney rose.

What about shredding compared to applying herbicide? When you compound the cost of shredding and wear on equipment versus herbicide application, the choice is clear.

Herbicide applications provide more flexibility in controlling certain invasive species as opposed to battling re-growth following shredding.

Fall is a good time to consider stockpiling Bermudagrass as an avenue to provide forage through the winter months. First, graze the pasture to 2-inch stubble height and about six weeks prior to the first anticipated frost, apply 60 to 75 pounds of nitrogen.

Pending timely rainfall events, this accumulation of forage can be much more cost effective and higher in quality than feeding purchased hay.

Another option could be incorporating a winter forage legume into the rotation. This option works especially well with fall calving cows as their nutrient requirements are in highest demand.

Rebuilding the Cowherd Series

The Extension Beef, Range and Pasture Committee will host a series of programs in April and May, targeted at Rebuilding the Cowherd.

The first meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Victoria County 4-H Activity Center. Topics will include "Post Drought Pasture Management Strategies," by Larry Redmon and "Tax Implications of Restocking" by Larry Falconer.

The program will be worth one hour of CEU.

Enchilada casserole courtesy of The Landing Strip Café will be served at $5 per person. Please call in to the Extension Office at 361-575-4581 by Friday, to RSVP.

The second program will be Tuesday, May 11, and will feature Joe Paschal discussing "Replacement Heifer Selection." More details to come.

Sam Womble is a Victoria County Extension agent- agriculture



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