After a year of drought, there a strong temptation to turn cattle out on grass that appears to be greening up with this year's spring moisture. But don't be too hasty.
The effects of last year's drought linger and might cause complications for producers, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln forage specialist.
Drought-weakened pastures will not be able to feed these animals without sustaining further damage, according to Anderson. However, there are ways to compensate for the loss and help pastures recover.
Although recent snow and rain provided moisture for pastures, the levels were still less than average. "Considering the severe stress pastures experienced during last year's drought, some might be dead or exhibit slow growth. Damaged pastures could take another year to recover."
Pastures throughout the state, especially those with bluegrass, have gaps that allow for weeds to establish. Noxious weeds like thistle and leafy spurge, as well as woody plants like brush and red cedar trees can take advantage of the weakened pastures.
"Weeds are a natural outcome when competitive ability of the plants is lowered," Anderson says. "Weeds become more opportunistic with less competition, so it's important to get them under control while patches are still small."
In general, drought and overgrazing damaged almost all pastures last year. The plants don't begin to recover until after they have started to grow, and extra stress can slow down that process.
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