Pasture and Forage Minute: Selecting Summer Forages, Thistle Control Options

Musk thistle
For pastures with noxious weed thistles like this musk thistle, now is the time for spring herbicide applications, while the plants are still in the short rosette to bolted growth stages prior to flowering. (Photo by Gary Stone)

Pasture and Forage Minute: Selecting Summer Forages, Thistle Control Options

2024 Preliminary Pasture and Cattle Land Values/Rental Rates for Nebraska

By Shannon Sand

It’s that time of year when the preliminary results for Nebraska ag land and rental rates comes out. On average in 2024, the market value for all agricultural land in Nebraska was $4,015 per acre. This is a 5% increase from the previous year.

Grazing land and hayland market values increases ranged from 6% to 8%. Non-tillable grazing land led the three land classes at 8%. Districts in the north, east, southwest and southeast led the gains, ranging from 7% to 13%.

For example, non-tillable grazing land in the north averages around $982/acre — a 13% increase from the previous results. Tillable grazing land followed with an increase of 7%, and hayland experienced a gain of 6%. Cow-calf producers capitalized higher cow-calf prices into these three land classes across competitive areas of the state.

Pasture and cow-calf pair rental rates trended higher across Nebraska in 2024. The rates increased generally between 5% to 8% compared to the previous grazing season. For example, the average per pair rate is $73.95 in the northern part of the state; this is a 6% change.

Rising grazing land cash rental rates follow higher cattle prices with the decline in national inventories, which may lead people to think about leasing and negotiation. When negotiating leases, some things to think about are early removal provisions when accounting for drought considerations for the upcoming growing season. The degree of service the landlord or tenant provides influences the cow-calf pair rental rates paid as part of the lease. Considerations for the leases include the party responsible for fencing upkeep, control of noxious weeds or brush, and payment of utility bills (used for livestock wells).

Selecting Summer Annual Forages

By Jerry Volesky

It is close to the ideal time to plant a summer annual grass, maybe to replenish your hay supply or have some extra grazing. Which one will you plant?

Choosing a summer forage can be confusing because there are about seven different types of major summer annual forage grasses. These include: sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, forage sorghum (which we often call cane or sorgo), foxtail millet, pearl millet, Japanese millet and teff. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. So, base your choice primarily on how you plan to use it.

For example, do you want pasture? Then use sudangrass or pearl millet. Both are leafy, regrow rapidly and contain less danger from prussic acid poisoning than other annual grasses.

What if you want hay or green chop? Then select sorghum-sudan hybrids or pearl millet because they yield well and they have good feed value when cut two or three times. On sandy soils, or when conditions are dry, foxtail millet may be a better choice for summer hay. It dries fast, doesn't regrow after cutting, and handles dry soils well. Cane hay is grown in many areas and produces high tonnage, but it’s lower in feed value and dries more slowly after cutting than the hybrids or millets. Japanese millet can either be cut for hay or grazed, and tolerates heavy, wet soils. Choose teff if you are looking for a really soft, leafy, high quality horse hay.

Maybe you plan to chop silage. Then choose the forage sorghums, especially hybrids with high grain production. They can't be beat for tonnage or feed value.

While there are several choices of summer annual forages, simply select the one that is best adapted to the way you plan to use it. And, of course, hope for rain since even these grasses won’t grow without some moisture.

Spring Thistle Control

By Todd Whitney

Native Nebraska pasture plants such as tall, Platte (prairie), Flodman, yellowspine, and wavyleaf (gray) thistles can be beneficial for butterflies and provide seeds for songbirds. However, many non-native thistle species such as musk, Canada, plumeless, bull and scotch are noxious weeds that must be controlled depending on your Nebraska county. These non-native thistles can cause significant grazing losses as they become aggressive competition for desirable pasture grasses and can spread rapidly.

For pastures with noxious weed thistles, now is the time for spring herbicide applications, while the plants are still in the short rosette to bolted growth stages prior to flowering. Our extension publication, Guide for Weed, Disease, and Insect Management in Nebraska (EC-130), provides a cost comparison of labeled thistle noxious weeds control products.

For musk and plumeless thistles, the highest-rated spring control herbicides include: Chaparral®/Opensight®; Dicamba or 2,4D ester + Dicamba; Milestone® and Transline®.

Other labeled products include: 2,4-D ester; Cimarron Plus®; Curtail®; Grazon P+D; Redeem R&P; and Telar®.

Canada thistle is a perennial; therefore, fall control is the preferred time for herbicide applications. So, during spring and summer, it is recommended to prevent seed production by mowing once in June and again in July, along with applying inexpensive herbicides like 2,4-D (2 quarts per acre) or tank mixed dicamba and 2,4-D. Then, after the first fall frost but before the ground freezes, apply a labeled fall herbicide. Spring-labeled Canada thistle products include: Graslan L®; Method®; Grazon NXT; Chaparral/Opensight®; Tordon 22K or picloram 22K; Escort® or Cimarron Plus®; Wide Match®; Milestone®; or Transline®.

As always, read and follow product labels. For best spring control success, all herbicides must be sprayed in rosette, pre-bud to early spring flowering stages. After flowering, hand rogueing (using a hoe, corn knife or shovel) or mowing of flowering stalks are your remaining thistle control options.

Subscribe to Pasture and Forage Minute

Online Master of Science in Agronomy

With a focus on industry applications and research, the online program is designed with maximum flexibility for today's working professionals.

A field of corn.