The Path to Better Pastures

Many ranchers joke that they’re really just grass farmers. There’s a lot of truth to that- so much of your livestock’s health depends on pasture health. Here are a few tips to make sure your grass is in top shape:

1. Get it tested

You don’t know what your soil really needs until you have it tested, and you can’t have healthy grasses without healthy soil. Depending on your results, you might need to apply lime, gypsum, or elemental sulfur. It also helps to plant legumes, which bring nitrogen up to the surface where the grasses can use it.

2. Keep it covered

If ground is exposed, the top soil is much more susceptible to erosion. Water also evaporates much easier from bare ground. If you have any bare spots in your pastures, try feeding hay there in the winter to keep the moisture in and help grass to grow.

3. Rotational grazing

Rotate your livestock from pasture to pasture every day or two so that they don’t have a chance to eat all the good grasses down to nothing. Studies show that one bite of grass helps it to grow, but more than that is going to make it harder for the pasture to thrive.

4. Weed control

Weeds can crowd out the good grasses, and block sunlight from ever getting down to them. Figure out what kinds of these pests you have on your place, and the best ways to get rid of them. This might mean spraying an herbicide or mowing them down.

5. Visit your local FSA office

Your county’s Farm Service Agency office has lots of great resources to help you achieve and maintain good pasture health, among many other things. Ask the folks up there about what works in your area.

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