September 08, 2014

Eight Ways to Beat the Summer Pasture Slump

Major symptoms of drought-stressed plants are slow orstunted growth, yellow-brown leaf color, and sometimes curled grass leaves or wilted legume stems.
This will negatively affect plant growth and ultimately animal performance, resulting in economic loss. Here are several ways to beat summer slump for forages and pastures.

1. Plan ahead. Nobody knows exactly what kind of summer weather we will have but producers should prepare for the worst scenario from hot and dry weather conditions.

2. Leave 3 to 4 inches residual. Close grazing in early spring leaving a 2-inch residual helps pastures prepare for summer slump by encouraging grasses to tiller and thickening the stand. As the summer slump approaches, leave more residues (approximately 3 to 4 inches).

3. Stretch grazing rotations. In spring, pasture paddocks are rotated more frequently (every 20 days) due to fast plant growth. However, hot and dry summer conditions result in slower forage
growth. Therefore, paddock rotations should be stretched to every 35 to 40 days. This will give each paddock more time to recover and allow for more residues to cover the soil.

4. Graze hay fields as needed. During the summer slump period, grazers can bring other hay fields into the pasture system if they start to run out of pasture.

5. Consider warm-season annuals or perennials. Whencool-season forages are in a summer slump, warm- season annuals (sorghum-sudangrass or millets) and
perennials (switchgrass) were still able to grow.

6. Watch your fertilizer. Fertilizing pasture with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium at green-up and after first and second grazing cycles prior to dry conditions will help it survive a drought
better than poorly fertilized pasture by having healthy stands and roots.

7. Restore drought-damaged pasture. Do not graze too early or overgraze drought-damaged plants too soon. If pasture is grazed soon after the drought is over, there won’t be enough plant materials left for photosynthesis.

8. Extend the grazing season. Last thing to consider is how to replace lost summer forage yield due to dry weather. Consider a fall annual forage crop like brassicas (forage rape, turnip, or kale) or small grain forage to extend the grazing season and reduce the need for supplemental feeding of harvested forage.

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