Southern Spotlight: Maximizing Grass Production

James Banahan

James Banahan

Right now, we’re out putting fertilizer down in anticipation of our row crops, but what about your pasture acres?  Cattle prices have fallen slightly, but they’re still worth a fair amount.  Fertilizing some of your grass acres will help maximize your grass production and support your already lucrative cattle operation.

But I’m putting the cart before the horse here.  There’s more to pasture management than dropping some fertilizer.  In fact, that’s a later step.

Step one of pasture management is acknowledging that grass is actually a high(er) value crop and needs to be treated as such.  We think a lot about how we treat our row crops—we probably don’t have to think quite as much about our grass acres, but we should think about them more than we do.

Step two of pasture management is clean up.  Because we think so little about our grass acres, we let the trees grow.  Some pastures I’ve seen could pass for Christmas tree farms.  Cattle don’t grow on Christmas trees though.  If you’ve got a tree problem, take care of it.  You can spray.  You can burn.  You have options.

Once you’ve cleaned the trees out, then it’s time to take a good hard look at the grass.  Do you see very little of it?  If so, this acre might not be a great candidate for fertilizer, since there’s not much to fertilize.  An acre with very little grass needs time and a little protection.  Consider keeping cattle off such acres to allow them time to regenerate.

If you’re taking a good hard look at the grass and you decide that it really does look pretty good, this grass is your candidate for fertilizer.  Encourage the established grass with a shot of nutrients to maximize its production.IMG_6148

When you’ve taken stock of your grass acres and have a handle on what kind of treatment they need, keep that hard-earned handle by employing a rotation plan for your cattle.  Letting cattle do as they please often isn’t the best strategy.  We might think that they’d follow the good grass, but that isn’t always true.  You know that they tend to hang in certain areas and can graze until there’s nothing left.  A rotation plan will ensure that your acres are never overgrazed which ensures that your acres will produce year after year and support your cattle operation year after year as well.

Not every acre you own produces awesome row crops, but that doesn’t mean that there’s something to be gained from them.  Eyeing every acre with the maximization of potential in mind is your path toward the black.  Your pasture acres offer more potential than you might know, and especially with cattle prices as high as they are, they deserve another look.