How to Improve Your Pasture Production

Whether you’ve just bought a property or have been working it for decades, your pasture could always be improved. Improving the quality over time is key to sustainably growing its production. Done right, pasture and grazing management can create higher quality forage for your livestock for many generations. 

Here’s how to develop a plan to improve your pasture production. 

First, Determine Your Pasture Quality 

Pasture quality varies widely. Get a soil test every three years to determine your soil pH levels. You can gather your own samples and mail them off to get the results from a local soil testing provider. Each soil sample can represent an area of up to twenty acres, as long as the ground is similar. Remember that if you have pasture areas with significantly different types of soil—like rocky, formerly wooded areas and sandy grazing land—you’ll want soil samples from each. This is because significantly different soil types will have different fertilization requirements. 

Fertilize Your Pasture

Based on your soil sample results, you’ll know how much lime and/or nitrogen to add to adjust the pH to the right range you need for producing good quality forage. Most cattle farmers find that their livestock do a fine job fertilizing pasture on their own. However, if you are preparing a new patch of ground for next season’s livestock, fertilizing now can get you great results later. 

How much fertilizer you apply will depend on the grass species you want to promote on your land. Based on pasture size, it can be beneficial to spread droppings from winter animal enclosures over the pasture in the spring through harrowing.

Choosing Grass Species 

The grass species you choose should be determined based on your area and how you intend to use the pasture. If you live in a warmer climate, bermudagrass and bahiagrass are good choices. Cooler northern regions may find that tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are more appropriate. Bermudagrass is often recommended in warmer climates because of its high yield and tolerance to animal grazing. 

Avoid Overseeding 

Seeding, if necessary, should be done in late summer, allowing four to six weeks to become established. Use a seeding rate calculator to determine how much to seed. Remember that in this case more isn’t always better, as overseeding can cause unnecessary competition between plants that causes poor overall growth.

During this time, you’ll want to practice rotational grazing or move your animals to supplemental feed and keep them off the ground. Grass growth should be about five to six inches before you move animals back onto the ground.

Control Weed Growth 

Weeds are the villain of small farmers and homesteaders alike. Stay on top of weed growth in your pasture. Overgrazing can result in open patches of ground that quickly fill with weeds. To prevent this, walk or ride through your pasture often, surveying for the telltale signs of common weeds in your area. 

Look out for species that may be toxic to your livestock, such as perilla mint, johnson grass, poison hemlock, white snakeroot, tansy ragwort, and other dangerous plants. While some poisonous plants are unpalatable to your livestock, others taste great going down but can cause immediate death or disability over time. 

Weeds can be removed manually or with targeted pesticide or organic treatments, depending on your preference and resources. 

Use Rotational Grazing

Avoid overstocking and overgrazing your pastures through the use of rotational grazing. It’s a great way to prevent weed growth and maintain the quality of your pasture. Rotational grazing ensures one or more sections of pasture are left to “rest” and recover while you graze your animals on a separate area of pasture. To determine a good rotational schedule, calculate the number of animals you have as well as the number of pasture acres. Here’s a great online tool specific to cattle

Rotational grazing isn’t only a more efficient way to use your land, but is also healthier for the land, preventing overgrazing that leads to weed growth and erosion. 

Manage Water Sources 

Depending on your area, water management can make or break your pasture production. Livestock prefer to spend their time grazing near a water source. Providing supplemental water sources and moving them regularly can help direct livestock away from overgrazed areas. This is also a good way to protect natural water sources on your land from becoming muddy and contaminated with waste. 

Connect With Yanmar

At Yanmar, we’re dedicated to providing customers and owners with the best experience in the industry. Make sure you’re using your property to its fullest potential with our Landowner’s Planner. Our expert team is here to answer your questions and share helpful insights as you manage your land.

No matter your need, we’ll go above and beyond to meet it. Please don’t hesitate to connect with us online or give us a call at 678-551-7369.

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