Preparing CRP Acres for Pasture and Hay Use
Dec. 21, 2015
Is your CRP contract expiring soon? If you plan to use your CRP as pasture or hay, prepare it properly.
Many CRP acres containing warm-season grasses need thicker stands plus weed and brush control before returning to production. Excessive dead litter, thistles, and cedar trees are three of the worst problems.
The fastest and most effective way to stimulate warm-season grass stands to thicken and also to control cedar trees 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. Your local NRCS and extension offices have assistance and more information.
Another way to improve conditions is to remove old growth by haying. This can be challenging, however, especially if the terrain is rough, the amount of dead material is great, pocket gophers have built many mounds, or many small trees have invaded your grassland. In addition, feeding this hay to livestock will require both protein and energy supplements.
I especially like another technique that breaks down old growth and opens stands up to induce thickening — winter grazing with high animal density. Feeding hay or grazing all your cows on just a couple acres at a time each week will trample dead litter into the ground and open up the soil for new seedlings and tillers. Move to a fresh area each week until you’ve beaten down all your CRP acres. You can get a similar result by using CRP as a calving pasture. You'll get the trampling, nutrient recycling, and excellent bedding all at the same time.
As CRP contracts expire, new uses must be planned. Get your land in shape now so it can be used effectively later.
Extension Forage Specialist