While we may have officially welcomed Spring according to the calendar, we are still waiting for the last of winter to leave in many ways. Now is a perfect time to catch up on “spring cleaning” in the pasture.
Conducting a soil test of your pasture will help you make educated decisions on amending your soils. Walking fence lines, inspecting for bare spots or sogginess, finding weed stands, setting up rotational grazing patterns and more will help set you and your pastures up for a successful 2022 and beyond.
Growing quality pasture takes nutrients from the soil, and often we need to help our land replenish those nutrients in order to provide the best pastures for our animals. If you have not conducted a soil test recently, now is the time. Results will help guide your management decisions.
Many local county extension offices or soil and water conservation districts can either send soil samples for you or provide you with information on sending your own tests.
Another great resource as you look at your land and make plans is the Web Soil Survey. The website is maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and provides interactive tools to access soil types and areal maps for most of the United States.
These interactive tools can help you pinpoint areas of your pastures that may be underperforming due to differences in soil structure and types.
Winter can wreak havoc on our pastures. Constant freeze/thaw cycles can shift fence lines enough for stubborn heads to get through. Heavy snows can damage trees and shade structures. Animals gathering to stay warm can wear plant cover thin and cause bare spots. Spring rains can lead to soggy areas that should not be grazed until drier weather arrives.
All of these issues, and more, can be found by doing a close walk of your pasture lands. Finding, and fixing issues early will save time and money in the long run.
Spring is an ideal time to identify where those stubborn stands of pasture weeds are starting and to start your weed control strategies to stop them from affecting your pasture.
Be on alert for weeds that may pose specific hazards to your stock, including cressleaf groundsel, horse nettle, and even trees like black walnuts and buckeyes. Starting weed control early is vital for keeping your pastures and your animals, healthy and growing.
If you have not made plans to start or continue a pasture rotation program, now is the time to consider your options. Just the way we have our favorite go-to restaurants and snack food shelves, animals have their favorite areas to graze. These areas can become overgrazed, leading to slower recovery times.
Areas that are overgrazed can also have issues with higher numbers of parasites. Areas that animals avoid can also lose nutritional value over time if allowed to grow taller and develop seeds.
As I think we are all hoping for warmer weather, more sunshine and maybe even some greener pastures, be sure to take some time to make plans to improve your grazing practices. While that may not make the top of many urgent to-do lists, making improvements, addressing concerns and putting your pastures in a position to be profitable will be something you thank yourself for in the long run.
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