Easy on the environment and the pocketbook

On a regular basis farmers hear terms like “sustainable” and “greener” in relation to their management strategies. Regardless of the terms attached to the practices, there are plans producers can put in place to save them money and help the environment at the same time. 

Targeted Weed Control

One “greener” practice involves targeting weed control early. Instead of waiting until weeds are knee or waist high, forage extension specialists recommend spraying weeds when they are small. This practice reduces the amount of herbicide needed and prevents the weeds from choking out desirable forage.

Throughout the Ozarks, buttercups can be quite the nuisance in spring pastures. “The best time to spray for buttercups actually starts around Thanksgiving, but nobody thinks about spraying then because the weeds are small and they are not obvious,” John Jennings, Ph.D., extension forage specialist at the University of Arkansas, said.

Jennings recommends producers implement what he calls holiday spraying. This management practice entails spreading herbicide on problem pastures around one of the holiday’s such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Presidents’ Day or Valentine’s Day. 

Select the areas covered in buttercups or thistles the previous year and apply herbicide before the weeds have a chance to take root. “A pint of 2, 4-D in November can clean a field up, but if you wait until they are blooming in the spring, you can put a lot of herbicide on there and not have much of an effect,” Jennings explained. 

Seeding Bare Hay Spots

Applying seed to the bare spots created by cattle gathering around hay bales or hay rings throughout the winter can be a benefit to producers. Forage extension specialists recommend smoothing out the trampled soil near hay rings, dragging a harrow to create pockets for seed and then sewing seed with a hand-cranked seeder. “It’s just like planting in a garden, you have real high fertility, it’s all trampled up, the next rain will settle it in and instead of having pigweed come up in the summertime you are going to have a higher percentage of the forages you planted there,” Jennings stated.

Using a hand-cranked seed spreader saves on fuel emissions. Additionally, it’s a good way to get forages started in a field and to keep weeds out. If producers want to start a new type of forage in a pasture, this is good opportunity to do so. 

Focused Forage Management

One way a producer can save on labor and machine time is to focus on forage management. Reducing the number of days producers need to feed hay can make a big difference. “If a producer were to stockpile forages in the fall and save them for the winter, then it could possibly save them many days (30 or more) of having to provide hay,” Earl Ward, NE Area Livestock Specialist with Oklahoma State University Extension, said. 

Extension specialists suggest producers create a system in which they have forage for livestock to graze every season of the year. Implementing any type of rotational grazing practice will help producers get more out of their forages. 

Experts suggest starting with one new practice and then slowly integrating additional strategies. This allows producers to determine what they are comfortable with, and which plans work best for their operation.


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