Monday, March 28, 2011

Pastures, Hay, Rain and Drought

A few comments from Sue Ellen Johnson PhD, NCSU Assistant Professor - Forage Specialists, as spring rain finally arrives: Grazing:

  • After a dry September and dry winter– perennial forages are still under some stress. Avoid overgrazing: do not graze canopy to less than 3-4 inches.

  • Wait for the canopy to reach 8 inches before grazing. This will improve total yield over the season and improve the plant stand – especially by helping the pasture plants compete with weeds.

  • Intensive rotational grazing (moving the animals every 1-2 days) allows more animals to live off a particular pasture acreage--because moving animals frequently optimizes regrowth.

  • Be cautious with seeding investments. Definitely split fertilize applications (if applying


  • In the piedmont drought is expected to persist, intensify or develop this spring, and NC summer is often dry. This will pressure pastures and hay supplies.

  • Consider buying hay now (2010 crop) if available. Livestock producers who are stocked near carrying capacity (1 - 1000 lb animal/2 acres) and do not want to cull heavily (in the event of drought) are particularly advised to purchase hay now.

  • Local hay is preferable, but if unavailable, organizing a local group to rail freight hay in from the west (or north) is not a bad option. Last year (2010) was a good hay year for much of the US. Commercial hay producers need to open storage space for spring 2011 crops. Stored properly (off the ground and covered) hay will hold its quality for several years.

  • “Good” quality commercial hay is all that is needed for beef cows or pleasure horses. Buy “premium” hay for dairy herds. Check the markets and rail freight options (the closest hay is not always the best value). Negotiate with hay producers based on bale weights (TONS) not on bale numbers and dimensions. Large squares are most efficient for shipping.

No comments:

Post a Comment