Hay producers want – and need – to get the most out of their hay fields. That is why spring is such an important time of year when it comes to the management of hay fields and pastures.
What follows are some of the best tips to make sure that your hay fields and pastures are managed as effectively as possible and that you get the most out of your hay fields this time of year – and the rest of the year, as well.
Whenever possible, try to hold off on grazing native range before the third leaf stage.
If your pastures are just turning green and you graze those pastures, carrying capacity will likely be reduced by up to 50%. Crested wheatgrass turnout should be delayed until the grass is about five inches. Bromegrass and intermediate wheat should not be grazed until the plants are eight inches. Further, you might want to consider feeding carryover hay later into the spring. This will give pastures enough time to grow and will result is a stronger stand before turnout.
Always evaluate alfalfa stands.
Spring is a busy time of year for farmers and there never seems to be enough time. However, overlooking your hay fields can be costly mistake. Ignoring your alfalfa hay for just a small amount of time is likely to cause big problems. This includes low production from fields because of a thin stand of alfalfa. Further, if your alfalfa fields need additions like oats for extra hay, the earlier you do so, the better. Waiting too long will allow your alfalfa to grow too much and overwhelm new seedlings.
For every one pound of nitrogen fertilizer applied to pastures, farmers can expect to see one additional calf or yearly gain achieved. Don’t overdo it, however, remembering that any fertilizer applied should be within general recommendations and be such that your grazing management plan can harvest
the extra growth.
It is always tempting to put animals out to graze as soon as possible. Doing so, however, can have a long lasting and negative impact on your season-long yields. That is why it is critical to always look ahead when making decisions regarding hay fields this time of year. Doing so will better serve you, your hay fields and your animals far into the future.