All pastures need sulfur since acid rain (which contained sulfur) has been greatly reduced. Each ton of pasture forage requires about 5 pounds per acre sulfur. The spring application of nitrogen can be ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24S). This fertilizer should be applied in the spring as applications over summer, when temperature is high, will cause some grass firing. One can mix ammonium sulfate with urea to reduce the sulfur application (and cost). Sulfur can also be applied as gypsum (calcium sulfate, 0-0-0-19S) which is a neutral salt and has no effect on soil acidity but far less soluble than ammonium sulfate and hard to handle. A third choice for sulfur is potassium sulfate (0-0-50+18S) which can also supply potassium if this nutrient is also needed.
The second biggest increase to forage production and utilization from pastures will be from allowing animals access to only a portion of the pasture at one time. When animal have access to the entire pasture, utilization is reduced because the animals trample much and they tend to graze and regraze the same spots. This means that some of the pasture matures, becoming low quality, less palatable and so unused, while the regrazed spots have reduced yield because they are kept short and not allowed to regrow.
A single roll of polywire with a few plastic or fiberglass posts and a battery-operated fence charger can increase pasture utilization from 30 to 40% up to 60 or 70%. A pasture can often be divided into three or four pie-shaped paddocks from the existing water source. Wire can be moved every four to seven days. This movement will increase forage utilization and keep cattle from regrazing new grass shoots, giving the pasture a time to recover and increase yield. While further gains can be made from more paddocks and increased management, three to four paddocks will proved the bulk of the benefit of rotational grazing.
Think of pasture as an underutilized resource and consider its value when hay is selling for $270 to $350 per ton!
Undersander is a University of Wisconsin Extension and research forage agronomist.
Set The Schedule For Hay Quality. Deciding when to make the first cutting of hay sets the stage for the rest of the year. Download our FREE report 10 Hay Farming Basics: Producing A Quality Hay Product today.