Of all the plants, the grasses are the most important to man. Grasslands—from improved pastures to natural rangelands—cover more than half of U.S. land area, not only providing forage for livestock and wildlife but also helping to stabilize soils and to reduce erosion.

Within pastures and rangeland, there are three major plant groups:

true grasses
legumes
forbs
These plants are critical for most small farms, yet they’re often overlooked, underappreciated and undervalued by farmers. When you look at the pastures on your farm, you might think of them strictly as grass, but they are so much more. Pastures are complex environments that typically support many species of plants and creatures great and small, ranging from your livestock to microbes, insects, birds and wild animals.

Tips for Planting a Pasture

Application Rate:

  1. New pasture – Drill: 25lbs per acre
  2. Overseed Existing Pasture or Broadcast New Pasture: 30-35lbs per acre
  3. No-till drill: 15-18lbs per acre

Seeding Your Pasture

  1. Dryland pastures—Mid September to Mid November. Here, the soil is still warm and prior to the onset of winter rains.
  2. Irrigated pastures- March thru October.

 Soil Preparation

New pasture—Disk down and follow with harrow or roller to break down clods and level planting area.

  1. Overseed established pasture–Mow down existing grasses and weeds, rake or harrow the land, broadcast seed, then use a drag, i.e.: chain link fence over the top.

Weed Control

The planting area may contain excessive weed population.  One method used to reduce weed contamination is to pre-irrigate the area prior to disking, thus allowing the weeds to germinate and be eliminated.

Be aware that frequently, dormant weed seed in the and soil may appear following pasture establishment.

Establishing Your Pasture

There are many factors that dictate how long to let your pasture establish before allowing animals to graze.  But generally, as long as the pasture is relatively well drained, you should be able to allow animals onto the pasture when the grasses have reached a height of 8-12 inches.  Be careful not to over graze the area, do not allow the grasses to be grazed below 3-4 inches.

Without irrigation, your pasture will go dormant in the summer, but when the fall rains return, it will, with proper management, provide feed for your animals for years to come.

 

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