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Give pastures a little help
Last year was a strange one, weather-wise, for all types of crops, including pastures. Flooding was widespread in the Midwest, followed by drought that hit a lot of the central and southern Plains as well as the mid-South.
Roxanne Gutschenritter, a pasture and range specialist for DuPont Crop Protection, hopes this year will be one of recovery. At the Cattle Industry Convention, she shared advice with beef producers for bringing pastures back to full production after droughts, floods, or both.
Some pastures got grazed off much shorter than they should have been grazed, right to ground level, says Gutschenritter. If you have precipitation coming now, the first thing you need to do is watch for winter annual weeds to sprout.
“They'll be the first things to grow in these pastures, and they'll be more aggressive than your pasture grasses,” she says. They could include weeds such as marestail, broomweed, and buttercup. Thistles, while not considered a winter annual, may also take advantage of the low competition from grasses.
“If you see aggressive weeds, get them early with an effective herbicide,” she continues. “I like to get them at 2 to 4 inches tall, before they get ahead of the grass. Weeds start to compete at a very small size. But herbicides are very effective when weeds are small and in a stage of fast growth.”
Her herbicide of choice would be DuPont's Cimmaron Max in many areas, she says. In southern Bermuda grass grazing areas, DuPont has a product called Pastora that is effective at controlling grass weeds like little barley or ryegrass. “Those weeds can just cover over a Bermuda grass stand,” says Gutschenritter.
During drought, recovery would not be a good time to early-graze a pasture, she says. “Usually, you don't completely lose your stand of pasture grasses to drought; it just gets really knocked back and takes time to recover. Once it's back and growing good, you should be able to graze normally,” she says.
If your pastures were in a flood zone last year, you've got different problems in recovery, but it still starts with observation. “Get out there and look closely to see what you have coming back in a pasture,” says Gutschenritter. “Flood waters move things, including weed seeds. You might see some species you haven't seen before – a new landscape of weeds brought in from somewhere else. Figure out what you have, then address the problem.”
Thistles are one to especially look for, she says. “A good time to go after them with a herbicide is when they are actively growing. That's usually in the spring or the fall.
“The most important thing is to get out there and be observant in pastures. If you wait until it's time to turn the cows out, it's too late to enact the best weed control,” she says.