East Texas Ag News: Pasture management

(Source: cNews/Elias Jones)
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 1:02 PM CDT
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ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m., the Angelina County Extension office will host a seminar for livestock producers looking to recover from drought and improve yields with their grazing pastures and hay fields. Dr. Vanessa Olson, forage specialist from the Overton Research Station with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, will be the featured speaker.

Summer grasses in our pastures and hay meadows suffered a good bit from last year’s drought. Coupled with the cool nights we continue to have, these warm season forages have been slow to start. Until the nighttime low temperatures consistently stay above the mid 60s, our standard Bahia and Bermuda grasses will not take off. With this cooler weather, we have seen winter annuals, many weeds along with ryegrass and clovers, produce very well.

One economical task to encourage the maximum production of summer forages is reducing competition from weeds. Weeds are always part of the landscape in pastures. Weeds compete for nutrients, sunlight, and water. There have been numerous studies that have proven that one pound of weeds can cause multiple pounds of desirable grasses to be lost. Regardless of what study or observation you rely upon, we know that there are definite gains in grass production, carrying capacity and pounds of beef produced per acre if we simply control weeds.

Knowing what products to use is crucial as those decisions can save time and money. One part of the program will be discussing which herbicides to use and the timing of their application.

Another economical task to undertake is soil testing. For a mere $15, stockmen can get a much better idea of what nutrients are low and what the pH is of a pasture. For less than $30, you can get a regular analysis plus data on micronutrients in your soil. Soil testing is certainly an expense worth investing in.

If I had to estimate the stocking rate for cattle for our area, based upon what I see and hear, I would say we stock about one cow to two acres. While some cattle producers can successfully attain this with their management practices, this rate is too optimistic for a number of others.

An alternative idea is to stock your pasture at 70% of what you think it could hold. That way should have enough for all seasons and can ride out the drier time and be able to harvest the excess grass when you indeed have excess. Olson will spend some time discussing the proper stocking rates for the season, class of livestock, and forage availability.

And, there are two methods to harvest excess grasses. The first, obviously, is to bale it as hay. This baled hay can be used to supplement your own herd in the winter or be sold to generate extra income. The other way to harvest excess forage is for those with a little more skill. Producers can buy thin cows or stocker calves to add weight during the spring and early summer months when we have excess forage.

The pasture management seminar starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Angelina County Extension office at 2201 S. Medford Dr. next to the Farmers’ Market on South Loop 287. No RSVP is required.

Producers with pesticide applicator licenses can get 1 CEU’s towards their license.


Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu.