As the days get shorter and the temperatures start to drop, it's time to take a moment and evaluate your pastures. While proper pasture management is a yearlong endeavor, fall is an excellent time to give your pastures some extra TLC in an effort to maximize their productivity come spring. Here are 10 things you can do right now to get your pastures ready for cold weather and improve spring growth.
Soil quality is one of the most important aspects of any pasture management program. Test results will reveal if pH and nutrient levels need to be adjusted so your soil can produce the highest yields possible. If it's been 2-3 years since you last tested it's time to test again. Your local Southern States store can help to facilitate soil testing. Call or stop by your nearest Southern States store to learn more.
Fall is a great time to control thistles and other perennial and annual weeds. Once you've identified the types of weeds are present in your pasture, you can develop a strategy for controlling their growth and spread. If you plan to apply herbicides, besure to do so prior to the first frost for best results.
The long, hot summer months can slow the growth of grass, but once fall approaches, a good mowing regime is essential. Mowing and clipping will promote even grass growth throughout your pastures. Mowing is also a weed control measure as it prevents weeds from going to seed, which reduces the number of weeds later.
Run the drag through your fields to spread manure evenly throughout the pasture. Dragging will recycle the nutrients from manure back into the soil to nourish your pasture. Parasites will also be reduced as their eggs will dry out when exposed to the sun.
Fall is the best time to fertilize cool-season pastures. If possible, try to fertilize by the end of October or early November. Pastures fertilized in the fall will be hardier throughout the winter and experience quicker growth when spring arrives.
If your soil tests reveal pH levels below 5.9, lime application will be needed to bring your pH above 6.0. 1-1 1/2 tons of lime should be applied per acre of pasture. Remember, the higher the pH levels, the more nutrient-rich your soil will be which creates better conditions for plant growth.
Soil temperatures are warmer in the fall than they are in the spring which makes it the perfect time to seed your pastures. Seed applied in fall will experience rapid germination and reduce weed growth.
"Stockpiling" is when you grow pastures for later use. Apply nitrogen in August, then wait to graze these fields until late fall or early winter. Nitrogen application will spur growth for cool weather grazing. Fescue pastures are good candidates for stockpiling as they are able to maintain nutrient levels during the winter.
Develop a rest and rotation plan to allow your pastures to be lush and green in the spring. Large pastures can be sectioned off using temporary or permanent fencing so that you can control the livestock grazing patterns.
Too many animals in one pasture can have a negative impact on plant growth. Pastures that are too heavily stocked will never thrive. Evaluate your forage requirements and animal units each fall to keep your land producing well.