Things to Consider when Evaluating Whether or Not to Fertilize Cool Season Grass Pastures

Farm Journal logo

Spring is right around the corner and many producers with cool season grass pastures, especially in central and eastern Nebraska are evaluating whether or not to fertilize this year. In many parts of Nebraska there is adequate soil moisture in place to provide a good start to the growing season.  Assuming average spring moisture, the outlook is positive for grass growth.

Grass prices have risen rapidly the last several years as pastures are in short supply.  Fertilizer prices have also decreased from their highs a few years ago. These conditions may encourage producers to be thinking how they might capture more forage production from their pastures.  University of Nebraska Extension Forage Specialist Bruce Anderson recommends producers consider not only fertilization, but also their grazing system when evaluating the use of fertilizer on pastures.

To make pasture fertilization pay, you have to efficiently capture the extra forage growth that occurs. If a pasture is fertilized in the spring and then continuously grazed throughout the rest of the growing season much of the additional forage growth is wasted by the cattle through trampling, bedding, and fouling. In this type of grazing scenario, approximately only a third of the additional grass growth from fertilization is actually consumed by the cattle.

A time-controlled grazing system with at least four paddocks or cells in a pasture provides producers the opportunity to more effectively manage how grass is grazed. Cattle are given access to only a fourth or less of the grass in each pasture at a time. When the cattle have grazed about half of the growth, they are then moved onto the next paddock. The use of a time-controlled grazing system allows grass to regrow and recover before being grazed again and improves forage utilization through reducing trampling and fouling.

Anderson also recommends that producers consider only fertilizing half to three-fourths of their pastures early in the spring. In mid-May if it looks like there will be adequate moisture for additional grass growth, fertilizer can be applied to those pastures that weren't fertilized early, but were grazed to produce additional grass regrowth for grazing in July and August.

Bruce Anderson has co-authored a NebGuide Fertilizing Grass Pastures and Hayland (PDF version, 711KB) that provides additional information on fertilizer rates and management for grass pastures.

Source: University of Nebraska

 

Latest News

Winter cattle feeding
Cash Cattle Weaker As Grain Rallies

Cash cattle prices slipped lower throughout the week as packer demand was called moderate. Grain markets posted a significant rally on the heels of USDA's report on Tuesday.

2 hours ago
Packing plant workers
Fired Tyson Managers: ‘Betting Pool’ Stories Distorted

Former Tyson Foods Waterloo, Iowa, plant managers dispute claims of how an "office pool" regarding COVID-19 was portrayed in news stories and deny it was about how many employees would contract the virus.

1 hour ago
Dream Lake with Hallett Peak in the background, at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Hi-Plains Researchers To Help Protect Rocky Mountain National Park

A Texas A&M AgriLife team will work with the Colorado Livestock Association and other stakeholders to refine and evaluate practices to reduce agricultural ammonia emissions into Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

12 min ago
AL Ranch
Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. Launches “MBA NextGen”

MBA NextGen updates the popular MBA training modules making it easier than ever for a new generation of farmers and ranchers to share their story and advocate knowledgeably for the beef industry.

8 min ago
Greg Henderson
Overall Meat Sales Higher In 2020

Meat sales - both dollar values and volume - were significantly higher in 2020. Those gains, however, came at the expense of a crippled restaurant and food service industry that may take years to recover.

9 min ago
Progressive Beef
Progressive Beef and Wendy’s® Advance Partnership

Wendy's announces 15% increase in percentage of beef sourced through Progressive Beef-certified producers in 2020; on track to meet goal of at least 50% this year.

14 min ago