Spraying Pastures May Not be the Answer

Spraying Pastures May Not be the Answer

Early to mid-June is a popular time to spray pasture weeds and woody plants. But, is it the smart thing to do? Are you spraying to kill poor forage plants or just to make the pasture look nicer?

The more experience I get with grazing and pasture management, the less spraying I do. In fact, anytime a pasture is sprayed, it suggests the grazing management was not as effective as it could have been or that the owner wants a quick fix.

First, for pasture to be profitable it must have high management input but controlled dollar input. Spraying costs money — money we might save with better management. 

Second, livestock eat many plants we call weeds. When they do, these plants no longer are weeds. In fact, many weeds can be good feed if grazed while young and tender. 

Third, unpalatable weeds usually become established in pastures after grass is weakened by severe grazing, and they thrive when grazing management fails to encourage vigorous grass regrowth. 

And finally, unless pasture and livestock are managed to benefit both plants and animals, the weeds will be back despite your spraying.

So why spray pastures?  If you graze properly but you wish to speed up the process of replacing uneaten weeds with vigorous grass, that's a good reason. Otherwise, spraying may be simply cosmetic and a waste of money.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist