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Spring Forage Management
Pastures are coming out of dormancy and the grazing season will soon be upon us. Proper pasture management before you turn the animals out makes it feasible to have lush, green pastures and healthy livestock.
Jamie Foster Malone is a forage agronomist and ecologist with Texas A&M Agrilife Research. She says one of the first things you should do is physically inspect the pasture.
"Walking the fence and checking the condition of things as animals have not been in a pasture continuously through the winter is really number one because you want to make sure that animals are safe," she recommends. "I would also include checking for any hay wires or hay string that might have been left behind because you also don’t want the animals to consume that and have any rumen compaction issues."
The foundation of a good pasture management program is knowing what nutrients are in the soil. She recommends doing a soil test to make sure nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and pH levels are where they should be. Be careful with nitrogen - too much nitrogen will cost you in both fertilizer and time spent mowing.
Weeds will grow in both good and bad soil, so it’s important to get the upper hand on them before they become large and set seed. Foster says mowing can be beneficial, but extensive weed root systems can’t be controlled by mowing alone.
"Really the best thing to do is to scout early and identify the plant," she says. "Once you know what you’re dealing with and you catch it early, there’s a lot of options these days for chemical control with no or very short re-entry intervals for your grazing livestock. And some of those even have extended control."