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Preparing for Spring Pasture

Posted Jan. 1, 2002

For many of us, this past fall started out to be one of the best we've had in a few years. The early rains we received in September either got our winter pasture up and running or stockpiled some warm-season forage to be grazed through December. Unfortunately, as has been the case in our most recent past, the rains stopped, the grass quit growing, and the majority of us began our winter-feeding program earlier than we would have liked. All we can now do is look to the future with optimism. If you planted winter pasture, rye or wheat, growth should resume by March 1. If these pastures require nitrogen, you should topdress them by Feb. 15 to promote additional growth. A good rule of thumb is that 75 pounds of actual nitrogen will produce one ton of cool-season, dry matter forage. How much does it cost per acre?

Another means to acquire early spring pasture would be to broadcast ryegrass with fertilizer by Feb. 15. Or, if you already have ryegrass in your bermudagrass pastures, simply apply fertilizer. A general guideline to encourage ryegrass production is to have the same number of acres as you do cows. For example, if there are 100 cows, fertilize 100 acres of ryegrass with 50 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre. Ryegrass, which is not as cold tolerant as rye and wheat, probably will not resume growth until late March or early April.

Finally, I know it's a little late to be predicting this winter's weather, but I examined some persimmon seeds this past November and all the cotyledons resembled a spoon. This gives us a forecast of lots of heavy, wet snow. If the kernel is fork-shaped, a mild winter is predicted. And, if the kernel is knife-shaped, a bitter, icy winter with cutting winds is predicted. I guess only time will tell.