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Working Ranch - November/December 2017

pasture management “You want to carefully manage an area with both uplands and riparian area to create uniform grazing of both resources,” suggests University of Nebraska’s Mitchell Stephenson. JAYMIE DUNLAP requirements for grazing recovery.” Soil conditions, forage types and rainfall all affect forage regrowth, but the basic principle of taking half, leaving half and never grazing cool season forages below 3 inches high is a reliable rule of thumb. WEED MANAGEMENT Scouting for weeds is a year-round chore, but managing new invasives or stepping up treatment for problem areas may require changes to an annual weed management plan. A fi rst step may be consulting local Extension or Natural Resources Conservation Service offi ces to identify treatment options or new developments in weed resistance. “Most weed species, especially broadleaf weeds, have to be hit early, before they get much growth, to make weed treatments successful,” Stephenson says. “Some weeds respond well to fall herbicide treatment. If weeds are an issue in multiple areas, it’s helpful to map out those areas and develop a strategy to come back at the time of year when herbicide application is most effective.” Schmitz notes that winter annual weeds are an indicator of either thin grass, overgrazed forage or some issue of forage and/or soil quality. “Poor or deteriorating pasture areas could be the result of over grazing, drought conditions or some type of mismanagement,” Schmitz says. “An abundance of winter annuals means there’s too much bare ground in the pasture, and something’s going to grow there, competing for moisture and nutrients. It’s critical to fi nd out why the forage base is declining.” Forage experts as well as agronomists have an important grasp of how different chemical treatments affect certain types of weeds. Those experts can also provide information on when and how to use chemical weed treatment, as well as up-to-date information linked to environmental factors related to specifi c chemicals. WHAT IF? Optimistic attitudes must be balanced by the reality of adverse conditions that could affect a beef operation at any point during the year. While it may not be the most pleasant exercise, having a written plan for best-possible responses to unforeseen events that reduce or damage pasture resources, handling facilities, etc. could impact the very survival of the operation. “List your best options for responding to drought or fi re or other types of signifi cant issues,” Stephenson says. “Reducing stocking rates is just one option for coping with forage loss. Identifying other forage sources and thoroughly reviewing and considering best possible options will result in an easier and more successful response to drastic weather or other tragedies.” In Missouri, and some parts of the eastern half of the country, beef operators often stockpile forage for strip grazing use in late fall or early winter. Determining the appropriate time to begin utilizing the stockpiled resource and considering how long it could or should last can help in managing late fall and early winter forage needs. “This is a good practice for making the most of the season’s forage growth,” Schmitz adds. “The key to maximizing this practice’s effi ciency is determining the optimum time to begin grazing it and how much of the stockpile to graze at one time.” ROTATION APPLICATION Grazing rotation plans aren’t “one and done.” Successful and optimum rotation plans vary from season to season and even week to week. “What did your rotational grazing plan accomplish this past season, and what do you want it to accomplish in the coming season? That’s the fi rst question to ask,” Schmitz suggests. “Was the animal rate of gain satisfactory? Was grazing pressure on each paddock acceptable? What are your grazing management notes revealing about your grazing success?” Maintaining notes on each grazing paddock or pasture can reveal which areas are most productive. Investigating why one area performs 42 I WORKING RANCH I NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017


Working Ranch - November/December 2017
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