What a tremendous year 2007 has been for forage growth. Plants that have been drought-stressed in past years are finally beginning to recover. However, it will most likely take more than one growing season to make up lost ground. I have observed many clumps of little bluestem in rangelands where much of the original plant is dead and only 25 percent or so is actively growing. This tells me that even though we are experiencing greater than normal rainfall, it will still take a few years of good growing seasons and conservative stocking on native rangelands for many plants to recover.
Take advantage of legumes.
Early this spring, many pastures were covered in vetch, clovers and other legumes, which helped to provide additional nitrogen to our summer grasses. And, with the cost of commercial nitrogen as high as it is, the value of the nitrogen from these legumes could be as much as $20 to $30 per acre. I have had numerous phone calls from producers wanting to use a herbicide to kill arrowleaf clover for fear that it would choke out the summer grasses. My response was always to be thankful for the free nitrogen and to be patient as the clover would soon die back. If they insisted on letting the bermudagrass breathe, then I would suggest that, if the area was small, they mow, but I still could not recommend spraying.
Be aware of your stocking rate and grazing intensity/frequency.
Weeds are a major concern to many producers. We have been in a drought for the past 10 years or have at least seen very abnormal rainfall patterns. This, combined with numerous wildfires, has led to overgrazed pastures, which increases the opportunity for weeds to thrive. Many of you planned to use herbicides for weed control, especially on fertilized pastures, but never had a chance due to the frequency of rainfall. Now, in the middle of the summer, it is too late in most instances to spray. At this point, I would recommend saving your money - not spraying and not mowing - and simply begin planning your course of action for 2008. If possible, rest native pastures from mid-July until frost to give them an opportunity to recover, and consider topdressing bermudagrass pastures in late August to provide additional grazing, if necessary. Plants need "active rest!" This means they need to be deferred from grazing while they are actively growing.