Identify weeds for management

Dick Matlack sheep

By Brianna Roe

Walking through your hay and pasture fields you may notice some weeds growing. There are a few things to keep in mind before reaching for the spray. Some weeds can be an indicator that the ground is lacking nutrients while other weeds are just an invader.

There are some things you can do to help prevent the spread of weeds and eradicate them from your fields. A few of the steps to forage weed management are identification, proper chemical use, grazing management and preventing the spread of seeds.

Weed identification

If you are unsure of the weeds growing in your fields consult the local soil and water office for help on identification. Not all weeds need the same methods of eradication. Some weeds need taken care of in the very early stages of growth while others can be treated right before, or during the early bud stages. Chemicals may not always be the answer as some weeds can be controlled by other methods like keeping fields cut back, grazing management, and adjusting soil nutrients.

Chemical usage

After the weeds have been identified you can apply the proper chemicals to the weed. When using spray timing of application is key. If you spray too late or early the weed will likely not be killed by the chemical. Always read the label before purchasing and using a chemical, some have restrictions on grazing, replanting, and the selling of hay. If hiring a pesticide applicator always ask for copies of the labels on all chemicals being used. Check the weather forecast for rain and wind, applying when the weather is right can help to prevent product drift. Write down the weather for the day the chemical was applied and retain it with the copies of the product label. It may also be beneficial for your operation to attended a pesticide application class.

Grazing management

Rotational grazing can be beneficial for weed management, by rotating livestock regularly weeds can be controlled by ensuring the paddocks are not overgrazed. Some weeds can also be managed by having the livestock graze them down before they go into the seeding stage of their lifecycle. Before grazing livestock on weeds ensure you have the weed correctly identified and that it is safe for livestock to ingest, some weeds can be toxic to livestock.

Preventing the spread of seeds

Take the time between fields to blow off hay equipment, by doing so you can prevent the hay equipment from spreading seeds between fields. When reseeding a field make sure to use certified seed. If hay is brought in from another farm make sure the fields are clean and weed free. One last step you can take is to change your clothes after walking through a field that has known weeds in it.

These are just a few things that can be used for forage weed management. If you are unsure of what is growing in your field or proper management techniques reach out to your local soil and water office for assistance.

(Brianna Roe is the agricultural technician for the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District.)


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