program

Pasture Health

Horse

Photo: Katherine Stember

If your fields are green, everything’s fine, right? But are you getting all the forage you COULD from your pastures? Do you have a bad patch of thistles or lots of dandelions? What about your grasses – are they the best for what your animals need?

There are many issues to consider when talking about how to make your pastures healthy and more productive. Controlling weeds, fertilizing your pastures, grazing schedules, and what you plant for forage.

Weeds and forage – the key to reducing weeds over time is to have grass that is robust and healthy. A healthy, vigorous grass stand can shade out weeds like thistles, dandelions, tansy and more. The key to a healthy pasture is to not over graze. Follow the “3 – 8 rule”. Take your animals off when they have eaten the grass down to a height of 3 inches. Put them back on when it is 7 to 8 inches tall. This ensures the best performance of your grass which maximizes your forage and minimizes your weeds. Just note that this may mean feeding them hay and grain to supplement their dietary needs…even in the middle of the summer!

You might want to get your pasture soil tested to make sure you’re giving it the right fertilizer. Too much fertilizer in the fall won’t allow the grasses to rest and prepare for winter, making them more susceptible to winter damage.

For information on how to fertilize, click here.

For information on pasture and hayland renovation, click here.

Visit the horses and livestock page for more information. Contact Rural Conservationist Scott Gall, scott@wmswcd.org, 503.238.4775 x 105, to talk about all other issues involving your farm, rural land and animals.


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