Preparing CRP for Pasture and Hay Use - UNL CropWatch, April 5, 2012

Preparing CRP for Pasture and Hay Use - UNL CropWatch, April 5, 2012

April 5, 2012

CRP acres to be used as pasture or hay often need some special care before they meet growers’ needs. These include removing old litter, thickening stands, and developing fence and water.

The fastest and most effective way to remove dead litter and to 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 problems like wind erosion. Local extension and NRCS offices have information and can help with this. 

Another way to reduce dead litter is by haying. This can be challenging if the terrain is rough, the amount of dead growth is great, or if pocket gophers have built mounds that plug equipment. Hay removed with much litter will have low forage quality and will need protein and energy supplements to feed it to livestock.

Better yet might be a technique called "flog grazing." Much like mob grazing, flog grazing involves placing a large number of cows on a small area for a brief time, usually one to seven days. However, its primary purpose is to use high stock density to trample dead litter into the ground and open the soil for new seedlings and tillers.

You can get a similar result by using your CRP as a calving pasture.  You'll get the trampling, the nutrient recycling, and excellent bedding all at the same time.

If hay or pasture use is planned for your CRP after the contract expires, get it in shape ahead of time.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist