Hopefully you are able to stay ahead of some of the forage. This is the time of year that you should have more forage than you can keep ahead of. If you are already short of forage and it is not getting ahead of you, then you need to be looking at fertility levels and/or the number of livestock you are trying to keep. Not enough now? It won’t get any better as it heats up and dries down, which is coming.
Mowing or clipping is the next option. Mowing for hay should only be done if you need the hay. Hay removal means nutrient removal; nutrients that will need to be replaced. Haying also opens up the sward, allows the soil to dry out more and increases soil temperature; both can reduce regrowth potential and potentially decrease soil organic matter and water holding capacity. Forage is not wasted if left in the field. It can still be grazed and what is not grazed returns to the soil to help maintain nutrients, moisture, and organic matter…that is why I always say, maintain cover!
Clipping or bush-hogging done early enough can do a lot to maintain quality, remove and reduce seed head production and still maintain cover. Don’t wait too late. If the seed heads on the grasses are already turning brown when you mow it, you are doing more for aesthetics than forage quality. Clipping it prior to seed maturity helps to maintain forage quality because energy that would have gone to seed production is reduced and it is used for more vegetative growth. This is not always true though. A grass plant that is totally stressed out is going to do everything it can to produce seed. It feels threatened. That is really obvious on a compacted site. I believe the weather the past couple years has pushed seed head production. I’ve seen stands of grass, as late as July with only 15% seed head production that had not yet been touched for the year. There is a lot of good stuff going on in such a situation; that plant is happy.
Keep on grazing!
Reminders & Opportunities Purdue Forage Workshop - Sept. 4 - Purdue Agronomy Farm - details soon. Pasture Walks & Field Days - Watch your local newspapers and Soil & Water Conservation District newsletters for upcoming pasture walks and field days in your area. As of Sept.7, 2013, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative is now the National Grazing Lands Coalition.