Managing dry pastures in 2012
Dan Undersander, Extension Forage Agronomist
Department of Agronomy
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Phone (608) 263-5070, (608) 262-1390
3:04 – Total Time
0:15 – Pasture situation and rotation
1:02 – Fertilizer Aug. 1 boosts potential
2:10 – Nitrogen and sulfur fertilizer
2:23 – Spring pasture improvement
2:55 – Log out
Drought stressed pastures. We’re visiting today with Dan Undersander, Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.
Sevie Kenyon: Dan, typify for us what’s going on with the pastures in the state.
Dan Undersander: In the southern third of the state where we’re having the drought is, of course, the growth has been greatly reduced. A couple things are important to keep in mind: if a pasture has been grazed continuously then its root system is smaller and it doesn’t go as deep so then it suffers more drought stress; if it’s been grazed rotationally then we have rest periods and we have greater root depth and we get more forage longer into these dry periods. If it does start to rain and we talk about fertilization, that you think about getting some temporary fencing and at least cutting your paddocks in half so that you can rest it a little bit during the summer. Rest is really important for grasses to grow a root system.
Sevie Kenyon: Dan, let’s talk about that rest period. How would a farmer best manage that?
Dan Undersander: Until after we get some rain, we’re going to have to think of most of these pastures as exercise paddocks and we’re going to need to be feeding hay or silage or something to keep our animals growing like we want or to keep our cattle milking like we need. We’re largely already out of forage in most of the drought affected region. The second thing, though, is we do have an opportunity to get significant forage from these pastures in the fall and the important thing, then, is to fertilize August 1. If we do that, then we can go from half a ton of forage per acre on these pastures up to one or two tons of forage per acres. That will allow us to graze longer into the fall; it will allow us to replace more of the hay that we had to feed out over summer. Think about, then, fertilizing August 1. If you even divide the paddocks in half, so your grazing half and resting half, you improve consumption and you improve the plant health so it can put out more tonnage.
Sevie Kenyon: Dan, if our producers fertilize August 1, what kind of fertilizer and how much?
Dan Undersander: Forty pounds of nitrogen and five to ten pounds of sulfur will greatly increase the yield on most of these pastures.
Sevie Kenyon: Are some of our producers going to be looking at reestablishing and reseeding pastures this fall?
Dan Undersander: Well, I know we would not be able to establish pastures this fall that would help us this year. The main thing that we might think about doing for pasture improvement, and I would call it that, would be to frost seed some red clover next spring. If you broadcast in March, just as soon as the snow is gone when we’re still having thawing days and freezing nights, the seed will be incorporated into the soil and you will improve the clover that you have in those stands.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Dan Undersander, Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.