Good pasture management practices in favorable weather can minimize problems in the future
This year’s wet summer has been a drastic change from last summer’s drought. While heavier than normal rainfall has made putting up hay rather difficult, it has made for good, stable forage growth in pastures around the Ozarks.
With the quantity of grass currently growing, producers can benefit from advance planning and management, just in case Mother Nature starts withholding rain again. Strategic planning can ensure well stockpiled pastures for winter grazing.
One key component to strategic planning for forage is observation. Jill Scheidt, agronomy field specialist with University of Missouri Extension, advises producers to closely monitor pasture situations and be mindful of management.
“Be careful not to overgraze or add too much nitrogen,” she said.
Good pasture stewardship during times of adequate moisture will help producers stay on top of things during a drought.
Implementing a rotational grazing system will prevent overgrazing and reduce the need for fertilizer input.
By dividing pastures into smaller sections or paddocks and following a rotation schedule, plants will be able to renew energy reserves, rebuild vigor, deepen their root system, and give long-term maximum production, even during drought conditions.
Better production from the forage translates to higher stocking densities while still being able to provide good quality, nutritious grass. If conditions do turn dry again, producers will want to be fastidious with their culling decisions and keep only their best performing animals on their valuable pasture.
Utilizing tools and technology can also assist producers with advance planning. The U.S. Drought Monitor (https://www.climate.gov/maps-data/data-snapshots/data-source-drought-monitor), provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, can be used to track soil moisture for planting and grazing decisions. Using a weather app on a smartphone for detailed local weather forecasting can also help producers identify trends and make management decisions on a weekly basis.
While it may not be needed now, experts from the the Noble Research Institute in Oklahoma recommend producers identify a “sacrifice area,” where producers would ideally target introduced pastures such as Bermudagrass, which with fertilization, weed management, and moisture can recover quickly. This will help spare native pastures that suffer when over utilized.