Pasture and Forage Minute: Weed Control and Cross Fencing Strategies
Controlling Musk Thistle
Did you have musk thistles last year? If so, I’m sure you’ll have them again this spring. And even though you may have done some herbicide control last fall, there are always those that may have been missed.
This warmer spring weather and recent moisture probably has you anxious to get into the field for planting. Don’t forget, though, that this also a very good time to control musk thistles. And I’ll also bet that you can get into your pastures to spray at least one or two days sooner than you can get into row crop fields to plant.
The current short rosette growth form in the spring is the ideal stage for controlling these plants. That means spray herbicides soon, while your musk thistle plants still are in that rosette form, and very few plants will live to send up flowering stalks.
Several herbicides are effective and recommended for musk thistle control. Some popular herbicides include Milestone, GrazonNext and Gunslinger P+D. These herbicides will help control other difficult weeds like common mullein, as well.
Other herbicides that can control musk thistles in pastures this spring include Chaparral, Cimarron and Curtail. A tank mix of dicamba and 2,4-D also works very well. No matter which weed killer you use, be sure to read and follow label instructions, and be especially sure to spray on time.
All these herbicides will work for you this spring if you spray soon, before musk thistles bolt and send up their flowering stalks. After flowering, the shovel is about the only method remaining to control thistles this year.
Post-emergent Herbicides to Control Weeds in Alfalfa
Weeds can be a major alfalfa problem, especially in new spring seeded fields. Roundup Ready® alfalfa varieties help overcome these weeds issues, but Roundup® isn’t the only good herbicide option for alfalfa.
Many weeds grow faster than alfalfa, thus robbing seedlings of moisture, nutrients and light. Left uncontrolled, weeds can cause thin stands, weak plants and lower yields.
For broadleaf weeds, mowing may be an option while the alfalfa is growing slowly. Adjust mowing height so several leaves remain on the alfalfa seedlings after clipping to aid alfalfa regrowth.
However, herbicide weed control may still be your best option, especially if mower clippings may likely smother young alfalfa seedlings. Therefore, now may be a good time to control escape broadleaf weeds using herbicides in your new or established alfalfa fields.
Our Nebraska Extension “Guide for Weeds, Disease and Insect” publication, EC130, provides weed response control ratings for various herbicides. Post-emergent weed control products include: Buctril®; Raptor®; Select®; Prowl H²O®; Warrant®; Arrow® and Butyrac®.
There are several products available for broadleaf or grassy weed control in established alfalfa, including: Aim®; Chateau®; Gramoxone®; Karmex®; Metribuzin®; Prowl H²O®; MCPA Amine®; and Velpar®. These products are most effective when preferably applied before weeds reach 4-inch heights.
Roundup may make it easier to control weeds in seedling alfalfa. But using these other herbicides correctly can also provide clean alfalfa fields.
As always, read and follow label directions for application rates and conditions.
Carrying Capacity and Cross Fences
As we prepare for spring planting, don't put away your electric fence just yet. It can be a useful tool to stretch your pasture this summer.
Electric fence is the easiest and cheapest way to increase utilization in summer pastures. Dividing pastures with an electric cross fence encourages cattle to graze pastures more completely. By increasing uniform consumption across a pasture, grazing time in the pasture can be extended, resulting in a longer recovery period following grazing. This time off allows plants to regrow and can improve their health and vigor. With high pasture rent and rumors of a hot, dry summer, stretching grass a bit early may pay off in the long run.
Temporary electric fence won’t replace the role permanent fencing options like traditional barbed wire and high-tensile electric fencing systems still hold. However, the low cost and easily moveable nature of temporary fence make it invaluable for a cross fencing tool. This is especially true if you already have electric fencing your animals respect. Being able to change paddock size on the go is a benefit permanent fence installations don’t provide. Additionally, using fencing equipment you already have provides an inexpensive opportunity to experiment with where you might eventually place a more permanent cross fence.
The electric fence that keeps your cows on stalks during winter can give you this inexpensive opportunity to try some cross fencing where you have been reluctant to try it before. More grass might be the result.