By Dean Slates
Right now grazers are about the only group of farmers who are not complaining about the weather. These cool spring rains have certainly brought forth an abundance of high-quality spring forages.
If we learned anything from last year’s drought, it is that as seasons change, so too does the growing conditions and productivity of the pastures.
Pasture walk. One thing that grazers need to be doing now is to take a pasture walk. Take a good, critical look at the grazing resources on the farm.
Not only should you be looking at what is there now, you need to be looking to the future. What will the forage resources be for June, July, August, the coming fall months?
Look for fields that may be lagging behind during this optimal growth period. Those sites need to be examined to see what can be done to improve their productivity before the 2004 grazing season.
Start looking for stockpile sites where you’ll get that late fall graze.
A look around. Your pasture walk needs to include a look at meadows where hay has been cut to see which fields will be candidates for summer emergency grazing.
If we only learned one thing during last summer’s drought, it is that alfalfa will still be productive during dry weather.
Summer annuals. Look at the need for summer annuals to help get through the summer grazing slump. Pearl millet, sudangrass, sorghum, sudan crosses, corn, turnips, even oats and rye can be planted to extend the pastures, but you need to be looking ahead as to what may be needed, and where those crops might be planted for maximum utility.
Weeds. While you are out there walking, take a look at your weed plant situation. Now is the time to devise a strategy to eliminate (or minimize) the plants that your animals won’t (or should not) eat.
Whether the strategy be clipping or selective use of a herbicide, you need to implement a control program while they are still in the vegetative state, and before the summer stress period comes on.
Distinguishing. It may well be that the one feature that distinguishes a grazer from someone who operates a traditional pasture program is planning.
While you may have more time to plan during the winter months, there are lots of opportunities for you to evaluate your pastures and your management right now.
Pasture walk. We have a pasture walk scheduled June 9 at the Melvin E. Miller farm, located at 4500 TR 119, Millersburg, at 7 p.m.
Everyone is invited, and there is no charge to participate. I expect this will be an outstanding event. But… it will not tell you much about your pastures and your management.
You need to do a pasture walk on your own farm so that you can make your important pasture management decisions.
(The author is the OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent for Holmes County, Ohio. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)