Use Fertilizer, Legumes to Boost Pasture Production

Use Fertilizer, Legumes to Boost Pasture Production

April 4, 2008 

Given seasonal rains, livestock producers can benefit from fertilizing hay meadows and some introduced pastures.

Adding 60 to 70 pounds of nitrogen per acre can increase hay production by three-fourths to one ton, said Jerry Volesky, forage and range management specialist at UNL's West Central REC in North Platte. However, producers will want to consider the economics.

With nitrogen at about $.60 per pound, Volesky said producers will want to carefully consider the cost-effectiveness of a nitrogen application by assessing expected increase in yield, fertilizer cost, the value of hay, or additional grazing capacity. Also, if fertilizer is applied there must be adequate rainfall to maximize the fertilizer response. This is a risk.

Another option that may improve meadow or pasture production is to interseed legumes like clover or alfalfa, Volesky said. In addition to the improved forage quality from the legumes, the legumes will fix nitrogen that grasses can use.

Sometimes it's difficult to get legumes established in existing stands of grass, but with good establishment techniques, it can be done, Volesky said.

Faith Colburn
Communication specialist
West Central REC, North Platte