Determine the needs of pastures in June to be ready for the fall

cattle on pasture
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

As we work through the heat of June into July, many of our cool-season forages start to enter a period of low production.

Continually scouting pasture fields for forage levels will help us stay ahead of the perspective fall-off in production.

Improving pastures

With the lack of production from our perennial cool-season pastures, we can look to no-till seeding to supplement and improve the nutrition we offer to grazing livestock.

At this time of year, we can make two management choices: plan to increase the forage stand for this year only and maximize the amount of pasture production into a “grass factory” or take a long-term stance to increase the biodiversity within a pasture or even convert a portion into a habitat that thrives under the heat of summer.

Options and potential benefits include the following:

Crimson Clover. Seed at a rate of 20 to 25 pounds/acre. Widely adopted cool-season annual legumes increase yields with good crude protein while contributing nitrogen back into the soil.

Pearl Millet. Seed at a rate of 15 to 20 pounds/acre. It should be grazed once it approaches 20 to 24 inches and allowed to start regrowth once grazed down to 8 to 10 inches.

Teff. Seed at a rate of 5 pounds/acre. Caution is advised here, as the ground must work very fine. The teff seed is very small and must have excellent seed-to-soil contact to establish. It produces the best dry forage. If desired, it can also be suitable for grazing with proper management.

Big Bluestem. Seed at a rate of 7 to 10 pounds/acre. This is a native warm-season grass for Ohio.

This is an example of a long-term improvement, as the establishment phase is often cumbersome and expensive. Big Bluestem’s success must utilize rotational or management-intensive grazing strategies, as it cannot tolerate close, continuous grazing.

Note that the seeding rates for this purpose are in late June and early July, based on a seed drill. If you plan to broadcast seed, consult your county extension educator for a more detailed plan based on your county.

Feed for the need

These five examples cover a wide range of the demand from our pasture fields. When considering pastures as a feeding for the need, we must consider where our livestock are in their life cycles.

For example, my beef cattle have calves at their side and are exposed to mature bulls, so their nutritional requirements would be considered high.

Conversely, the flock’s ewes are dry and at maintenance levels. This period is before the breeding season begins in the coming months, so the nutritional requirements are considered low.

Note that there are many variables to consider for the livestock in my operation, and your needs may differ at this time of the year. One of the most critical components, other than scouting your pasture crops, is the testing and analysis of your soil and forage.

Maintaining records allows you, as the producer, to understand nutritional needs or deficits to supplement when needed.

It provides a potentially better return in the long term with more benefits for your pasture field forages and your livestock operation.

As always, consult and develop a relationship with your Ohio State University agriculture and natural resources extension educator for the most up-to-date research-based information.

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