Tips to increase pasture production

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

Are you a producer who will be carrying increased livestock numbers this pasture season?
If this applies to your situation, here are a number of options to increase your pasture production this coming year.
•Rotational grazing
Rotational grazing will give increased forage production and increased gains per acre. Plants start to grow again about five-six days after grazing occurs.
The key to rotational grazing is the rest period following the grazing. It is during this rest period that the plants have an opportunity to produce new growth and develop their root systems.
The livestock should be removed from the field before this new growth is initiated.
A sound rotational grazing system can result in 25-50 percent increased gains per acre. Gain per animal may not be any higher, but the acreage will support more animals.
•Apply nitrogen to grass
Nitrogen fertilizer will give a significant increase in grass growth in any pastures that contain less than 30 percent legume.
Nitrogen should be applied in amounts of 40-50 pounds of actual N per application, with applications being four-six weeks apart. 
The first application should be made in late May or early June.
Earlier applications will increase the early growth, which usually exceeds the animal needs and becomes mature.
If you are prepared to use the early-season growth for stored forage, then you could make the first application in late April or early May—soon after the grass starts to grow.
It generally has been found that in a stocker cattle situation, one pound of nitrogen will produce one pound of beef.
•Turnips after cereals
Early planted spring cereals could be harvested as forage or grazed. Then plant a brassica crop, such as turnips or fodder rape, to give late-season grazing.
Cereals also can be planted later in the season (late July to mid-August) for grazing in September and October.
•Purchased feed
Buy standing hay or baled hay to supplement your forage supply. Calculate your needs early and get your hay lined up so that it is cut at the optimum time for quality forage.
First-cut hay made in July is going to have little nutritional value.
Supplement your livestock with purchased grain. Grain prices currently are at a low point and the grains do supply a high-energy ration supplement.
•Ration balancing
Balance your rations. Feed your livestock to their needs—do not underfeed and do not overfeed.
Balanced rations are going to give you the most economical gains.
These are some ideas that can be utilized to increase your forage production.
Early planning and careful utilization of your pasture should make the grazing season a successful one—even with increased livestock numbers.
Dates to remember
•May 22-25–Large animal clinic dates for Dr. Blair Simonson (call 274-7393 to book an appointment).