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Pasture Management is a topic that has increased in popularity this past year. People want to know more about controlling invasive weeds, nutrient management, and overall improvement of current pastures. There are many benefits to maintaining healthy stands with diverse perennial ground cover. Perennial pastures can improve water infiltration with healthy soils, reduce runoff with actively growing vegetation, and provide excellent weed control through competition
With all these great benefits, we want to help improve pastures and maintain a healthy stand year-round. We start with a soil sample to get a baseline view of what is out there. This can be constantly changing, with biomass consumed or removed each year. The key to any nutrient management is replacing any major missing nutrients, then managing their removal. The constant use of fertilizer can also greatly affect pH, thus reducing nutrient availability to plants.
It’s important to scout the area as well as you can for weeds and pests. When controlling invasive weeds, timing and choice of control methods can greatly aid in success. Consult with your local agronomy center when using herbicides to get an understanding of the benefits and potential restrictions with chemical application. It is also important to consider alternative methods, which can be highly effective, especially in spot treatment. Pest management is more effective when problems are caught and addressed early.
The next step is to develop a plan on how animals can feed without overgrazing. This requires some way to isolate animals from certain areas, providing a “rest period” for recovery and regrowth. It is key to not let pastures get grazed under about 4 inches in height. The shorter the plant, the longer the recovery period and the greater the chance of pests establishing. When designing pastures, consider water and shelter for animals as well as equipment access. It is a good practice to maintain a uniform height if you plan to hay. This may require some targeted mowing to shorten plants. Think about how often animals will need to be moved, and potentially replant or reinforce high-traffic areas