Winter is a great time to plan, prep and optimize your forage production. One strategy that Missouri cattle producers can leverage is the cultivation of early season forages. These forages offer a range of benefits, from providing nutritious feed for your herd to extending the grazing season. Here are a few of the key benefits we love…
Early season forages address post-winter nutrient deficiencies by offering hiqh-quality grazing precisely when a herd needs it most. Rapid growth in the spring produces a nutritionally dense grass that is highly palatable. This forage acts as nature’s multivitamin to support growth, reproduction and overall herd vitality
Extended Grazing Season
Early season forages allow cattle producers to start grazing earlier in the year, reducing the need for hay and enabling producers to utilize pasture resources. We all know that the cheapest feed available is green grass, so extending the grazing season ultimately results in more profitability for your operation.
Enhanced Soil Health
Certain early season forages, such as legumes, can improve soil health by releasing nitrogen and increasing nutrient availability for other crops.
Let’s look at how to make sure you have all your heifers in a row for when the weather starts signaling spring grazing is near.
Now is the time to refine your pasture rotation plans and prepare for any fertilizer or herbicide applications you’ll need. If you plan to incorporate new forages and haven’t ordered your seed or inputs, be sure to give us a call today. Other items to consider….
- Do you have any new fencing that needs to be built to ensure optimization of your pasture’s potential?
- Are there any high traffic areas that need to be renovated?
If you planted your early maturing forages in the late fall, you’re ahead of the game. If you missed that window of opportunity, no worries! There are many varieties of clover and lespedeza that are ideal for frost seeding. Frost seeding can be performed between January 1 and March 1, or when temperatures start to fluctuate between thawing and freezing. Here are a few other things to keep in mind to get prepped:
- If you plan on doing a controlled burn, do it before seeding AND make sure conditions are favorable.
- Get soil samples to understand what nutrients your pastures might be lacking. Nitrogen fertilizer can be applied in late February to promote early growth for hay production. If your pastures are for grazing, however, you may want to hold off until late spring to apply fertilizer so your herd can stay ahead of the rapid growth of spring forage as the temperatures start to rise.
- Make sure all your equipment is in good working order.
Considering you have a strong rotational grazing plan in place for your herd, here are a few basic reminders to ensure you are optimizing your land:
- Consider moving livestock into a barn or lot during wet periods to protect your pastures.
- Be proactive to move feeding areas to reduce mud, compaction and any possible damage.
- Once spring grazing begins, wait until there is about 6” of growth to ensure maximum grazing for the whole season. Grazing too early hurts future forage production and stand persistence, along with damaging the tillers that produce new growth.
- Shorten grazing rotation in spring: Shortening a normal 4 day rotation down to 2 days in the spring will provide enough forage for animals while not stunting grass growth.
Early season forages are so much more than a seasonal fix. From vibrant greens to strategic cultivation, they promise a straightforward nutritional solution for thriving herds. By choosing the right forage varieties, producers can enhance the nutritional quality of their herd’s diet, improve overall animal health and maximize profitability. Your partners at Missouri Southern Seed are ready to help you find the forage that suits you!