Fertilizing Pastures in the Spring

Jeff McCutcheon, Extension Educator, Knox County

Every spring I get questions from producers about fertilizing their pastures with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Many producers coming out of winter want to give their pastures a boost or they are fertilizing crop fields and figure they might as well do their pasture while they are thinking about it. Eventually I lead the conversation to the question of is this really the best time to fertilize pasture?

Now, I am not totally opposed to fertilizing pastures in the spring. Applications of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) should be made prior to establishing a new seeding based on soil test results. A light application of nitrogen (N), 20-40 lbs. N/ac. in March could be used to jump start spring growth and allow for earlier grazing. This could potentially give about two weeks of earlier grazing if environmental conditions are favorable. But the acreage for this N application should be limited. The spring flush is coming and most producers can’t normally harvest it all with grazing animals. Why add to the amount of forage produced when you don’t need it? An early nitrogen application also can increase the potential for grass tetany and excess nitrogen in the spring may possibly increase toxins in endophyte-infected tall fescue. Generally, one acre of pasture for every two cows should be fertilized with N in early spring and never more than a third of the total pasture acreage. Continue reading

Extending the Grazing Season Backwards

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator, Morgan County

When we think of extending the grazing season, we usually think of how long we can go into the fall or winter without feeding stored feed. Another option often overlooked is how soon we can stop feeding as spring approaches.

There are several options to accomplish this. The first is by the use of wheat, barley of cereal rye planted back in late summer or early fall. If grazing is your primary option for the crop, cereal rye may be the best bet. This crop can be lightly grazed in December, then grazed again in March. This is probably the small grain that will start growing first in late winter/early spring. When young, it is high quality and provides feed in March; however, if Continue reading