Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tips for Pasture Maintenance

A good pasture is one of the most valuable assets that a homestead can have. It provides feed for a long period of time meaning that you have to buy less. However, pastures that are routinely grazed need a good maintenance program. Everything I know about maintaining pastures I learned from my grandaddy who was a cattle farmer. Most of the feed for his cows was gotten from the pasture. So I thought I would pass on a few of the tips that he passed on to me.

1. Rotate your pasture. This is important as the pasture needs time to rest and put on new growth. So even if you have limited pasture, divide it up. Even a short rest of a couple of weeks is better than none at all. Not rotating your pastures will lead to a lot of expense trying to keep forage in them for livestock.

2. Choose grasses and legumes that grow best in your area. I love Kentucky bluegrass and there is nothing that makes a prettier pasture. However, I know that my climate just will not support this grass. It is important for a successful pasture to grow the forage that grows best in your area. Down here in the deep south we grow Bahia or bermuda pastures mixed with clover. We overseed with perennial rye in the early fall for winter forage. I always recommend a mix of a grass and a legume. The legumes put nitrogen back into the soil which creates balance in soil health and the nutrition content of pasture.

3. Mow your pastures twice a year. We mow in the spring and in the fall. This will remove any rank growth of the grasses as well as keep the weed problem under control

4. Fertilize and lime your pastures. This can be done organically by using lime which is all natural and spreading manure each time you move livestock. If you can disk in the lime because it take an awful long time to get into the soil just by spreading it. If using commercial fertilizers, don't graze livestock on the pasture for several weeks after fertilizing. We also will use extra compost to fertilize with.

5. De-thatch if necessary.Horses and cows are hard on the ground, they compact it which does not allow for water, nutrition and air to get to the roots. It is important that periodically you go through the pasture and poke small holes in the ground so these things can get to the roots. Also de-thatch by taking a rake and pulling it through the grass. Somtimes clippings and such can build up around the plant further making it hard for water and nutrition to get into the soil.

By following these tips and working to maintain pastures you can provide year round nutritional grazing for your livestock, thus cutting down your feed bill.


Holly said...

Oh, I just love to read your blog! What you've written here is very similar to what I'm reading about pasture farming.
We are planning some major changes for our pasture-adding 2 permanent ones, overseeding the existing ones as soon as the snow is gone & using movable electric wire fences to rotate more-even using the front lawn in front of the house.
Thanks for the reminder about planting peas/beans with the corn & pumpkins. I had totally forgotten that. We learned about the 3 sisters when we did a unit study on American Indians.
That would be awesome to get a Dexter someday. Our beefers get very little grain-more halage than anything, but I imagine a milk cow would need different nutrition for producing milk.
When is the best time to spread lime? I'm thinking if we did it right before the first snowfall, it would get good contact w/ the ground, but don't know when it should be applied. I guess it could be applied before a rain as well.
Thanks for all the great info on your blog. I've spent way too much time on your blog today! LOL Holly

Kat said...

Holly, sounds like you have a really good plan. I usually lime in the spring so that the spring rains have a chance to help it incorporate. I also fertilize at that time also. Because we typically have pretty dry summers I try to get any amendments done in the spring. I am glad to hear that you enjoy my blog. I aim to please! God bless.