CW09-25-09 CRP to Pasture
September 25, 2009
If you’re planning to return former CRP acres to pasture or hay production this year, you’ll want to prepare these areas by removing old litter and thickening stands.
Removing Plant Litter
The fastest and most effective way to remove dead litter and thicken grass stands is with prescribed burning in the spring. Obviously, only use fire where it can be handled safely and legally, and where it won't cause other potential problems like wind erosion. For more information and assistance in planning a prescribed burn, contact your local extension or NRCS office. Also, be sure to get a permit from your local fire department before proceeding.
How to Flog
Use at least 100,000 pounds of cattle or 100 cows per acre. With this high stocking density, animals recycle nutrients as they trample dead litter into the ground and open the soil for new seedlings and tillers.
This increases soil organic matter and hastens the return of nutrients that were trapped in the dead forage back to the soil. In addition, nutrients from the forage and cattle feed will be spread back on the ground as manure and urine to enrich the soil for better grass growth next year.
Leave them in an area for only one to seven days, then move them to another area and repeat the process until all the overgrown CRP acres have been flogged.
Dead litter also can be reduced by haying, if you haven’t already done so due to drought releases or as allowed in the contract. This can be challenging if
- the terrain is rough,
- the amount of dead growth is great, or
- pocket gopher mounds plug equipment.
This hay will have low forage quality and will need protein and energy supplements if it’s fed to livestock.
Better yet, try a technique called "flog grazing." Flog grazing involves placing a large number of cows on a small area for a brief time to graze and trample the plant litter.
Start flogging as soon as allowed, before the snow flies and grasses still have some nutrition, using temporary electric fences as needed.
You can get a similar result by using your CRP as a calving pasture. You’ll get the trampling, nutrient recycling, and excellent bedding all at the same time.
Extension Forage Specialist