Memorial Day is a good time to review the status of the hay and forage programs for the year.
Much hay and forage work is expected to be completed, or at least started, by Memorial Day. For example, all perennial grasses or legumes should already be planted. If you still have some planting to do, it is better to wait until mid-August.
Spraying musk thistle should be done before Memorial Day. Plants that have started to soar and grow are usually not completely killed by the spray. In addition, the cuticles or waxy layers on the leaves thicken as summer progresses, making herbicide uptake less likely. Digging may be your best option now.
For high quality hay, your alfalfa must have already been cut. A subsequent cut can result in sufficient hay for many animals, but there is little chance of obtaining dairy-grade hay plus this cut.
The end of May is also the general time for the start of the planting season for summer annual grasses. Soil temperatures of 60 degrees or more are best for Sudan grass, forage sorghums, and Sudan sorghum-grass hybrids. Mils, however, prefer even warmer soil temperatures.
Memorial Day is a good time to estimate whether your pastures will have enough moisture to produce the growth your livestock needs this year. If the drought has reduced growth, adjust the number of animals now before it is too late. Summer rains are unlikely to allow you to fully catch up. And if the growth is abundant, you may be able to cut some of it for hay or store it for winter grazing.
Continue with this Memorial Day assessment and many hay and forage issues will be resolved, or at least anticipated.
FERTILIZING HOT SEASON GRASS PASTURES
Fertilizing warm-season grass is a practice some growers do, but consideration must be given to forage requirements, forage value, and fertilizer costs.
Warm-season grasses are very efficient at using water and nutrients. Where moisture is present, warm season grasses grow rapidly when air and soil temperatures rise. With fertilizer, the growth will be more abundant, which will lead to more days of hay or grazing. Mid-May to early June is the window for fertilizing.
The amount of fertilizer to apply depends on each operation. First, determine if the fertilization is worth it. If the additional growth will not be grazed or if the additional hay will not be fed, fertilization will not be economical.
Knowing which species will be fertilized can also help in the decision. Taller growing warm-season grasses, such as switchgrass, barbon, and Indian grass, will be most effective with the fertilizer. Shorter warm-season grasses, such as sideoats grama and barbon, will respond less well to fertilizers.
Humidity is the last key consideration. In eastern Nebraska, in a year with average or above average humidity, a rate of 50 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre will have a great response. In a drier year the response will be weaker / less. For central and western Nebraska, 40 pounds of nitrogen on irrigated grasslands will do the trick. Outside of sub-irrigated grasslands, nitrogen may not bear fruit if there is not enough moisture. Without moisture, the answer may not be worth the cost.
Fertilizing warm-season grasses can be of benefit to an operation if done quickly. Hay yield or grazing days can increase if managed well with fertilizer.
SPRING WIFE CHECKOUT
The yellow-green spots in a pasture may look pretty to the uninitiated, but the telltale spurge bloom is not a springtime sight many of us want to see.
While there are many plants that cattle ranchers may consider pasture weeds, leaf spurge is one plant they particularly dislike. As well as being on Nebraska’s noxious weed list and needing control, this hardy perennial spreads aggressively through seeds and root buds. With an extensive root system that can reach depths of up to 15 feet, leafy spurge once established is difficult to control.
While biological and cultural control methods may allow some reduction in growth and seed production, those who desire complete control may consider herbicide treatment as the best option.
Several chemicals have an action on leafy spurge, however for spring treatments, control at the bud or true flower stage is recommended. Early bud stage application is limited to 2,4-D ester or Gunslinger / Grazon P + D. Later flowering stage application opens or options for Curtail / Cody / Stinger, Streamline, a mix of Sharpen + Plateau or a mix of Overdrive + Tordon.
Unfortunately, a single treatment will not control the spurge, so continued monitoring and retreatment is necessary. One effective strategy is to combine spring applications that prevent seed production with a fall treatment to control new growth.
Leafy spurge can easily invade a pasture, but with vigilance and regular treatment, control can be achieved.