Cutting Excess Spring Pasture For Hay

Cutting Excess Spring Pasture For Hay

May 8, 2009

Spring rains were good to excessive in areas of Nebraska and pastures have responded in kind with good early season grass growth. As pastures grow faster than cattle can eat, finding ways to use this extra grass efficiently can be like putting money in the bank.

The most obvious way to conserve extra growth is by cutting hay from parts of the pasture. Normally I try to avoid extra hay cutting, but if you have the time, equipment, and more pasture than you can use this spring, consider cutting hay now to stretch your forage options later when pasture becomes scarce.

If you choose the hay option, cut as seedheads are about to emerge for good hay quality and plant regrowth potential. Fence cattle out of the area you cut, otherwise they'll ignore and waste the taller, stemmier grass and graze the new regrowth. You might even apply a little nitrogen fertilizer to stimulate growth if soil moisture is good.

Don't be surprised if certain weeds like common ragweed or foxtails become abundant in cut areas. Ragweed or other non-palatable broadleaf weeds can be killed with herbicides. Not much can be done about the foxtails or other annual grassy weeds, but cattle will graze them and broadleaf weeds quite well if you allow access before the weeds head out.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist