April 26, 2012
Forage and Pastures Still Weak Despite Rains
In early April our pasture and forage management plans were focused strictly on drought, both how last year affected our grazing and hay lands and what to do this year as it looked like we'd be starting the season dry. With recent moisture, it's easy to put drought concerns behind us, but avoid the temptation.
Plants were weak going into winter and many pastures sustained significant damage that will require years to repair. Plants will start to grow now that they have some moisture, but they still are weak. Grazing too soon will weaken them even more, causing slow regrowth, lower carrying capacity, and maybe even some plant death. Continue to follow plans to turn out livestock 10-14 days later than normal to give these plants a chance to recover some strength before stressing them with grazing.
This temptation to start grazing too early has been increased due to unusually cold temperatures in April (see. Many fields were planted with rye, triticale, or wheat last fall with plans to get some early grazing. This spring some oats were planted early, and some still need to be planted for grazing in mid-May or cutting in mid-June. This early grazing is not going to happen. There still is reasonable hope that good hay yields might be available, and even quite a bit a grazing, but the timing will be much later than we expected.
Prospects for hay yields have increased following recent rains, but don’t get lulled into thinking we are free from the affects of the drought. Summer rains will be needed. There is a long season ahead, and as last year showed, it can turn awfully dry awfully quickly.
Extension Forage Specialist