Plan Pasture Renovation for Next Spring Now

Overgrazing can be a good thing now if you're frost seeding this winter.

Published on: Nov 14, 2012

By Chris Parker, Purdue Extension Ag Educator

Some of you may need to do some pasture renovation before the next grazing season. Maybe the stand was getting thin, or maybe a few spots didn't respond after the drought. Perhaps you want to add legumes to increase grazing value.

First, overgraze the grass pasture this fall to minimize the amount of residue remaining. If your goal is to frost-seed in mid-winter, you want as little residue as possible so that seed can work into the soil.

Overgrazing tall fescue now won't hurt it.

It will bounce back next spring. One strategy many specialists recommend to extend forage supplies is stockpiling grass for winter anyway. Basically you're turning cattle in on pasture after it quits growing. It's like feeding hay, but you don't have to harvest it.

Still Time To Graze: If there is still pasture left in the field, you can let your cows graze it, particularly if you want to frost-seed next winter. Less residue will make frost seeding easier.
Still Time To Graze: If there is still pasture left in the field, you can let your cows graze it, particularly if you want to frost-seed next winter. Less residue will make frost seeding easier.

At the same time, pull soil tests within the pasture. If there's a rolling area and low area, test those separately. Take several cores and turn it into one sample. This is a good time to pull soils samples. Once you pull in the fall, always pull in the fall to remove seasonal variation from the results.

If the soil test says you need lime, apply it as soon as possible. You don't have any way to incorporate it in pasture, so you must depend on rains and freeze-thaw cycles to work it into the soil. The sooner it is applied the better.

It can be difficult if you only have a few acres of pasture to find someone willing to apply lime. If your local fertilizer dealer is covered up, ask him for the name of a custom operator who might be able to work you into his schedule. Pastures respond well to lime if the pH is much lower than it should be.

Red clovers will do well at pH levels lower than for alfalfa. The pH should still be at least 6.0 or higher.