Converting Cropland To Pasture

With low grain prices and high production costs, it might make sense to convert cropland into pasture. However, this isn’t something that’s done overnight. It takes time, patience, and good technical advice.

Rob Kallenbach is an Extension forage specialist at the University of Missouri. He says the first step is to take stock of what’s already out there.

"Evaluating what you have on the farm now in terms of forage and how that fits the livestock that you’re working with in the pasture, figure out where are the gaps in production, and converting those acres to forages that really help you fill those gaps," says Kallenbach. "Once you identify what species that you want to have in this new pasture, then you want to take some soil tests. I like to have them done at least six months ahead of time, I like to get the results back in enough time that I can make adjustments."

Soybeans are a good row crop to grow the year prior to seeding forages. Undisturbed soybean stubble usually provides an ideal seedbed.

If you’re planting cool season grasses, seed in late summer-early fall. If you’re planting warm season forages, the ideal time is in the winter. Also consider any herbicide carry-over from row crops and how long you might have to wait so it doesn’t affect germination.

Once the pasture starts growing, give it time.

"So, if I plant some fescue this August, it’s not that I can’t utilize it in the coming year, but I want to be gentle and really think about how heavily I use it during that period of time until it becomes fully and solidly established," he says. "Another thing a lot of producers use if they have this option, is in that first year, they will reserve those for hay fields."