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Farm Management
First Posted Nov 27, 2007
Jul 22, 2010

Pasture Management for Drought Stressed Farms

The following article was taken, with permission, from Prince William At Bay, Volume 33, Issue 3, Fall 2007

1. If you haven't already done so, dedicate one area of your pasture system as your "sacrifice area." Use this area to confine livestock when pastures aren't growing and during wet conditions.

2. Stop rotating livestock to any pasture that has been grazed below 4 inches. Grazing below 4 inches will add further stress to plants recovering from drought by depleting energy reserves stored in the base of the plant.

3. Add all-weather footing to your sacrifice area such as bluestone dust, "pit fines," or large wood chips (no Black Walnut - it's toxic).

4. Treat other high-traffic areas such as gates, trough sites, and travel lanes with footing material.

5. Repair or install guttering on barns and run-in sheds. Direct run-off away from high-traffic and manure storage areas and into well vegetated "buffer" areas "Keep Clean Water Clean"

Proper pasture management will allow for some light turnout even during the winter months as long as the pastures are not grazed below 4 inches and are not wet.

Sacrifice area footing material needs to be replenished periodically.

6. Consider replacing the water hydrant in your winter pasture/sacrifice area with an automatic freeze-proof trough.

7. Stop spreading manure. Stockpile manure December through February. Manure that is spread when the ground is frozen or saturated won't be utilized and may runoff. Save manure for application when plants are actively growing and apply according to a nutrient management plan.

8. If pastures contain less than 25% clover,you may want to overseed 2-3 lbs. per acre in late winter.

9. Get a jump on spring pasture management. Take soil samples now and arrange for application of any needed lime during the farm service business' slow season. Plan for spring application of any other nutrients.

Contact our office if you'd like more information on implementing any of the above suggestions. Conservation Specialists are also available if you'd like to schedule a site visit to your farm for more personalized recommendations.

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