August 17, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald
LEXINGTON, KY.

Cattle operations are highly dependent on a good forage base. That forage base affects profitability and yields. Improving pastures will increase yields and improve forage quality, which will improve animal performance.

“Due to last year’s severe drought, many of our pastures lost stands of legumes and, in some situations, grasses as well,” Jimmy Henning, agronomist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said. “Unfortunately, many weed species have replaced our desirable forages, making them less productive.”

From now through September 30, cattle producers will need to focus on renovation to improve or renew pastures. Henning made a few suggestions to get producers thinking of forage establishment.

There are three steps to get started: first, test the soil and apply needed fertilizer and lime; second, reduce any vegetative competition, which is best done by tillage herbicides or heavy grazing; third, select the right kind and amount of seed.

“The best recommendation I can give on selecting seed, regardless of species, is to buy certified seed,” Henning stressed. “I just can’t think of a situation when buying certified seed is a bad investment.”

If you plan to seed fescue, Henning said to give strong consideration to using one of the no-endophyte varieties. Also, stop by you local Cooperative Extension office and pick up Progress Reports that evaluate varieties of several forage species under hay and grazing situations.

“After the initial preparations have been made, it’s time to decide on the renovation method,” Henning continued. “Regardless of the method you use, the seed must make good contact with the soil.”

One of the best ways to make sure seed-soil contact and reduce competition from existing vegetation is to mow, board, plow or disk. If you choose only to disk, disturb 60 to 75 percent of the existing sod. Henning said if the field is rolling and prone to erosion, mix one to two pounds per acre of perennial ryegrass with the other grass seed.

Apply lime fertilizer if you need to, and disk in. Broadcast the seed and pack the soil with a corrugated roller. Be careful about the use of a disk after seeding. Optimum seeding depth is one-fourth to one-half inch deep.

Henning said one of the most common failures is getting seed too deep.

The second best method is using a no-till seeder and to reduce the amount of vegetative competition, using a herbicide.

“Select the best herbicide for your situation and follow the label directions,” Henning said. “Seed placement should be one-fourth to one-half inch deep.”

The third method is using a no-till seeder without using a herbicide. Henning emphasized that this method should be used in field situations where tillage or killing of existing vegetation is not an option because of a high risk of erosion. He said it is important to graze and clip weeds prior to seeding to reduce the amount of vegetative competition. Again, seed placement should be one-fourth to one-half inch deep.

Also, to help control regrowth of existing vegetation, seed in late September. Watch the field closely to see if you need to graze again after seeding to control competition.

“At this time, I guess I should address one last renovation method,” Henning said. “Broadcast seeding on top of the ground with no seedbed preparation,. Don’t do it! This method is almost always unsuccessful.”

Following Henning’s guidelines will dramatically increase your chances for successful pasture renovation.

Contact: 

Jimmy Henning 859-257-3144