10 Tips for Successful Fall Pasture Management
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.
Fall is a great time to control thistles and other perennial and annual weeds. Apply herbicides prior to the first frost.
Clipping pastures will promote even grass growth. Mowing is also a weed control measure as it prevents weeds from going to seed, thus reducing 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. 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/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. One to one and a half tons of lime should be applied per acre. Remember the higher the pH levels the more nutrient rich your soil will be. More nutrients equal better conditions for plant growth.
Soil temperatures are warmer in the fall than they are in the spring. Therefore 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/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.
Evaluate Stocking Rates
Too many animals in one pasture can have a negative impact on plant growth. Remember, even if you follow all the tips above, pastures that are too heavily stocked will never thrive.