Thursday, October 01, 2009

Pasture Seeding Questions...

I'm not even going to look down and see how long it has been since I last posted ... I'm sorry to those of you that read regularly and those of you that have been wondering where I have been. I'm especially sorry because I thought I was going to get going again after that last break. Nonetheless, here I am writing a blog post again. I haven't stopped farming, but I have been plenty busy on the farm and at the church and trying to figure out all the puzzle pieces that need to get put together before the ground freezes and the snow flies. To get the "blog ball" rolling again I think I'll just start out with an easy post...

As you may or may not remember I have been using a springtooth harrow and a drag harrow to bust up the anthills on the farm. Doing this has brought into sharp focus the need (or my desire) to reseed a few areas of the pasture. There are some areas that are so over grown with brush and prickly elms that once all that is removed I'll pretty much have bare ground (or weeds only). So, I would like to do some pasture seeding on maybe a third of our pastures. And, maybe broadcast some seed on a few other areas.

My question, and I realize this is a very location specific question, is what type of pasture mixes would you recommend if you were going to be drilling in some seed? And, when you would you suggest doing it (this fall or in the spring)? I would love to hear any thoughts people have on this subject and I'll be doing a bit of research myself, so I'll report back.

As always, thanks for reading and I'm sorry for such incredibly sporadic posts ;)


Anonymous said...

I don't know what pasture mixes would be good for your area, but I like to seed in the Fall to have fewer weeds and to get a jump on the Spring growth when Spring rains come.

Rich said...

If you have access to a grain drill, I would try something like wheat, rye, oats, or ryegrass, along with some clovers, vetch, or winter peas, as a sort of cover crop to both cover the soil and provide some winter or early spring grazing. If your pasture has any grass at all, it should have a sufficient seed bank built up in the soil for the grass to fill in the bare spots the following summer with the added fertility from this winter annual cover crop and the additional grazing (and maybe a little mowing once in a while during the summer to clip the weeds and brush). Planting something like wheat will also cost much less than planting most perennial grasses (especially if you already have enough seed already there in the soil waiting for the right conditions to start growing).

I had a spot in the corner of a wheat field that was covered in giant ragweed (I think) and sunflowers a few years ago that I just brushhogged a number of times over one summer until I had more Bermuda grass than weeds. Then, when the cattle were on the wheat, I unrolled a few round bales of hay to encourage them the ‘camp out’ in that corner. Now it has a thick stand of grass and you would never guess that it was once covered in weeds. I don’t think Bermuda grass grows in Iowa, but you should be able to try something similar.

Don’t hesitate to try ‘experiments’; on our farm there are scattered clumps of weeping lovegrass (remnants from some farm program that my grandfather participated in). After I read that a pasture containing a mixture of Bermuda and lovegrass, is more productive than a pasture containing mainly Bermuda I decided to explore that thought. Since I am reluctant to spend money that I don’t need too, I dug up some clumps of lovegrass, divided the clumps into a few dozen mini-clumps and planted (sprigged?) them into some existing Bermuda grass. Supposedly it isn’t possible to transplant lovegrass, but the results were good enough that I am considering doing it on a much larger scale. Most native grasses spread through rhizomes and/or roots instead of seeds, so it should be possible to dig up clumps of grasses like big bluestem, divide the clumps and replant them in other areas of the pasture. If it works, it will be much cheaper than buying seed (with possibly quicker results).

I am unsure about what you think about fertilizer, but small amounts of fertilizer (30 lbs. of actual N, etc.) applied at the right time can sometimes give big results. Relatively inexpensive pelletized lime can also be placed in the furrow (depending on your drill) with your wheat, rye, etc. to help make existing phosphorus and nitrogen more available.

On that thought, in a couple of weeks, I actually plan to drill some wheat into a hay meadow with about 60 lbs./acre of pelletized lime, for some winter grazing, a possible grain harvest, and an improved hay crop next year.

Steven said...

I know it's considered a hay crop for the most part but I would seriously consider an alfalfa. We drilled an alfalfa variety that was supposed to be for grazing and it has worked really well. I wouldn't want to use it in an open grazing setting but with rotational grazing it's great. The alfalfa is the first thing to bounce back after heavy grazing and of course the Dexters love it.

Rich said...

Another thought I had today was planting something like sudangrass or millet.

I have been reading about grazing sudangrass and millet, and found a reference suggesting planting sudangrass during a drought in the less productive parts of pastures to provide both increased grazing during the drought period and an improvement in the pasture (due to the increased organic material and animal impact) in the years following the drought.

Even if you weren't experiencing a drought next year, you would still improve your pastures if you found something like sudangrass, millet, or a grazing corn to plant in your pasture for either grazing or haying or both.

There is some interesting information about grazing corn at:

Rich said...

I previously commented, "...I actually plan to drill some wheat into a hay meadow with about 60 lbs./acre of pelletized lime..."

After a little more thought and research, I don't think I will be using pelletized lime banded in the furrow when I plant our wheat. A lack of trials verifying the claimed benefits and contradictory recommendations have caused me to decide against using pelletized lime.

Sorry for any confusion this might have caused. (If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is)

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