ennessee is one of the top livestock producing states in the country. Much of the livestock in Tennessee is raised by smaller-scale, parttime

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1 T ennessee is one of the top livestock producing states in the country. Much of the livestock in Tennessee is raised by smaller-scale, parttime producers. No matter what size operation, good pasture management is often the most economical and practical way to provide high-quality forage for your livestock.

2 But producing high-yielding, top-quality forage does not just happen. It takes careful planning and sound management to get productive pastures that can provide better animal performance. When developing a pasture program, producers should begin by considering their goals and resources. A pasture s current condition and its anticipated use should determine whether to leave the pasture as it is or to reestablish or renovate it. Implementing good grazing management, controlling weeds, applying lime and fertilizer, and improving plant stands can benefit most pastures. Soil Fertility Soil fertility refers to the level of essential nutrients available for pasture plants. Proper soil fertility levels are essential to maintain good growth and assure high nutritional levels in forage plants. The only way to accurately know your soil fertility needs is to take a soil test. The level of soil acidity or soil ph is one of the most impor-

3 tant factors affecting plant growth. A low ph will make soil nutrients less available to plants, which means fertilizer is not taken up by the plants in the field. The addition of lime can correct a low soil ph. Pastures and hay fields are often low in phosphorous (P) and potash (K). Both P and K are essential for good growth of forages. Plus, they help to provide cold tolerance during the winter months. Micronutrients such as sulfur and magnesium are also essential for plant growth and should be monitored to assure that deficiencies do not occur. Nitrogen is the element that normally produces the most dramatic growth response in forage grasses. Good nitrogen management depends on applying the proper rate at the proper time. Cool-season grasses need to be fertilized with nitrogen in the fall when plants begin to grow and again in the spring to promote growth if hay is to be harvested. Warm-season grasses need to be fertilized with nitrogen in the spring. For bermudagrass pastures, apply 60 pounds of actual nitrogen when plants begin to grow and another 60 pounds later in the summer when moisture is adequate. For bermudagrass hay, apply nitrogen after each hay harvest to promote growth. Bermudagrass utilizes potassium in large amounts. Potassium should be added back to the soil to maintain yield and quality when removing large amounts of forage.

4 It is unnecessary and undesirable to apply nitrogen fertilizer to forage legumes because they produce their own nitrogen in the soil. It is generally recommended that no nitrogen be applied to grass-legume mixtures if the legume makes up a substantial portion (usually 30 percent or more) of the stand. Nutrient Removal in Forages: Fescue Orchardgrass Bermudagrass 3.5 T/A 3 T/A 6 T/A Nitrogen Phosphate Potash Magnesium Sulfur

5 Weed Control Weeds are a common problem in forage production. They reduce yield, often lower forage quality, and can be toxic to livestock. They also compete with desirable forage plants for moisture, nutrients, and sunlight. Most weeds can be controlled by timely applications of a herbicide. Keeping a few basic concepts in mind when planning pasture weed control can greatly increase the likelihood of success: 1. Match the herbicide and rate of application to the weeds and pasture crops that are present. 2. Herbicides must be applied at the correct time to be effective. Weeds are easy to kill when they are small. If weeds get taller than knee-high, it is desirable to clip the pasture and spray the re-growth. 3. Weeds should be sprayed when they are young and actively growing. 4. The majority of pasture herbicides are most effective at 60 degrees F or above, and it is helpful to have several warm days in succession before and after applying a herbicide. 5. It is necessary to get good herbicide coverage in order to obtain adequate weed control. At least 15 to 20 gallons of water per acre should be used with most herbicides and spray pressure should be 30 to 40 p.s.i. Some herbicides require the use of a surfactant or spray adjuvant.

6 6. Pasture herbicides should always be used in a safe manner. Crops in the vicinity of the area to be sprayed may be damaged by spray drift. 7. Herbicide labels should always be read carefully prior to use. Label directions should be followed exactly. Forage Species Selection Proper forage species selection is important to good forage management. More than 40 species of forage crops are routinely grown in the South, although many can only be successfully grown in certain areas. The three criteria normally used to categorize forage crops are whether they are: (1) grasses or legumes (2) annuals or perennials and (3) warm season or cool season. Grasses are monocots (produce only one seed leaf) and have parallel leaf veins and a fibrous root system. Common grasses

7 are fescue, orchardgrass, and timothy. Legumes are dicots (produce two seed leaves) and have a tap root system. Most legumes have the ability to fix nitrogen in nodules on their roots. Common legumes are clovers. Annuals are plants that germinate, grow, reproduce, and die in one growing season. Perennials are plants that have the ability to live for more than one year. They have a dormant period at certain times of the year. Warm-season plants begin growth and/or are planted in the spring or early summer. The majority of their growth occurs during the warmest months of the year. Cool-season plants begin growth and/or are planted in the fall or sometimes early spring. Most of their growth occurs during the coolest months of the year. Addition of Clovers A goal of cattle producers is to provide their cattle with needed nutrients as economically as possible. Allowing the cattle to acquire their own feed through grazing is the most efficient way to provide these nutrients. The majority of cattle in Tennessee graze tall fescue or orchardgrass pastures. These pastures provide good-quality forage over a long portion of the year, but there is always room for improvement. One of the best and easiest ways to improve pastures is to add legumes such as red or white clover and annual lespedeza.

8 Clovers can produce benefits in four ways: (1) increased yield (2) improved animal performance (3) nitrogen fixation and (4) more summer production. Forage Crop Establishment Crop establishment is critical to a successful forage program. The first step in forage management is to have a good stand. There are two basic ways to plant a new stand of forage. One is conventional seeding which involves preparing a seed bed by plowing and disking a field. Once a smooth seedbed is prepared, seed can be drilled or broadcast onto the seedbed, and then cultipacked to ensure good soil contact with the seed. The other method is no-till seeding which uses chemical means to remove all plant competition. With this method, a

9 herbicide is used prior to seeding to kill all existing vegetation. A no-till drill is used to place the seed in contact with the soil. Important considerations when establishing new forage stands are to: (1) Fertilize according to soil test (2) Plant at the proper time (3) Plant the proper amount of seed (4) Plant when moisture is available and (5) Plant at the proper depth. For existing cool-season pastures, where stands of grass have thinned, additional grass seed can be planted. This can be done by grazing or clipping the pasture in mid-september to remove all top-growth. Seed can be drilled in mid-to late- September. Use the full seeding rate for the appropriate grass. If clovers need to be added, seed can be broadcast in late February or drilled in March. Stockpiling Fescue Stockpiling fescue is nothing more than accumulating forage while it is growing in the field for future grazing. The purpose of stockpiling is to delay hay feeding by one to two months, which will decrease the amount of hay needed during the winter. Tall fescue that is stockpiled in the fall is of higher quality than that stockpiled in the spring because it is more leafy, higher in protein and carbohydrates, and lower in fiber. A fall application of nitrogen on fescue will help lengthen the

10 grazing season and decrease your hay needs and winter feed bill. Hay production and feeding is one of the major expenses of cattle production. Stockpiling fescue can help decrease the amount of time and money it costs to produce hay. Simple guidelines for stockpiling: 1. Graze or clip fescue pastures short in early August. Make sure that all of the old, mature forage has been removed. 2. Apply 60 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre in midto late-august. This will promote as much new growth as possible. 3. Keep cattle off one or two of the pastures, which will allow fescue to accumulate. Later in the fall or winter when the forage is needed, it can be grazed. Nitrogen should be applied to all tall fescue pastures in fall, even if they will not be stockpiled. Applying nitrogen will help increase fall growth, some of which can be grazed early or stockpiled for later.

11 General classification of forage crops frequently grown or found in the South Perennials GRASSES Annuals Warm-Season Cool-Season Warm-Season Cool-Season Perennial Perennial Annual Annual Bahiagrass Kentucky bluegrass Browntop millet Barley Bermudagrass Orchardgrass Corn Oats Carpetgrass Prairiegrass Crabgrass Rescuegrass Dallisgrass Tall fescue Forage sorghum Rye Eastern gamagrass Timothy Foxtail millet Annual ryegrass Indiangrass Grain sorghum Wheat Johnsongrass Switchgrass Pearl millet Sorghum-sudan Hybrids Sudangrass Perennials LEGUMES Annuals Warm-Season Cool-Season Warm-Season Cool-Season Perennial Perennial Annual Annual Kudzu Alfalfa Alyceclover Arrowleaf clover Servicea lespedeza Alsike clover Cowpea Caleypea Birdsfoot trefoil Korean lespedeza Common vetch Red clover Striate lespedeza Crimson clover Hairy vetch Sweetclover Winter pea.

12 Planting recommendations Forage Seeding rate Seeding date (lbs./acre) Tall fescue 15 to 20 Aug. 15-Oct. 1*, Feb. 20-April 1 Orchardgrass 15 to 20 Aug. 15-Oct. 1*, Feb. 20-April 1 Timothy 9 to 10 Aug. 15-Oct. 1*, Feb. 20-April 1 Wheat 90 to 120 Sept. 1 - Nov. 10 Rye 90 to 120 Aug Oct. 15 Annual ryegrass 20 to 30 Aug Oct. 15 Bermudagraass 6 to 10 April 15 - July 1 Pearl millet 15 to 25 May 1 - July 15 Red clover 8 to 10 Feb April 1 White clover 2 Feb April 1 Annual lespedeza 25 to 40 Feb April 15 * Fall planting is usually the most successful. CO-OP

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