The need to renovate a pasture happens more often than you might think. If you have some pasture land that’s looking pretty run down, it’s probably in need of a little help that Mother Nature just can’t provide. Without some maintenance, good pasture grass and other desirable vegetation can eventually succumb to weeds. Bringing that pasture back to life will require some effort and investment, but the results will be worth it in the appearance, health, forage quality, and year after year performance of the pasture.
If the pasture is still in essentially good condition, then a simple maintenance approach is appropriate. That means addressing some fairly basic issues like fertility, weeds, and soil pH, along with planting new seed of a variety that is the same as what is already there.
On the other hand, if the pasture is essentially worn out and beset with weeds, then starting over with a complete renovation may be warranted. That means eradicating the vegetation that’s there and replacing it with new seed.
Regardless of your intended approach, take soil samples from a variety of different locations in the pasture and have them analyzed by your local county extension office. The soil test results will tell you if the pasture soil needs remediation in terms of its nutrient levels, fertility, and pH. Working with your local Soil and Water Conservation District office or your county extension service will give you the kind of information and guidance you need to remediate your pasture soil, if needed.
Restoring a pasture.
Once you’ve tested, analyzed and improved the soil as necessary, it’s time to take the next step. To restore a pasture, first mow the pasture as low as possible. A Frontier Rotary Cutter (USCA) is the tool to use. Next, it’s beneficial to disturb the soil surface. The idea is to upset the pasture surface just enough to provide a good germination environment. The process will also promote the growth of existing vegetation.
Next, acquire and plant the new seed. A Frontier Conservation Seeder (USCA) is an excellent implement for this. Available in either 5 foot or 7 foot (1.5 or 2.1 m) working widths, it handles virtually any size seed, from native prairie grasses to large legumes and requires a tractor with a minimum of only 30 engine horsepower (22.4 kW). It can also be used to apply fertilizer. On the other hand, a Frontier Broadcast Spreader (USCA) or Frontier Pendular Spreader (USCA) provides another great solution to restore a pasture. Follow the seed provider’s directions for application rate. Once you’ve spread your new seed, go over the area with a chain or spike tooth harrow to develop good seed to soil contact.
Doing this in the early fall will promote germination and growth before the first freeze hits, which will help foster growth in the spring and plant survival in the future. Let the new pasture grow until it reaches flowering height, then mow to a height of at least 6 inches, if not higher. Let the pasture regrow to its pre-mowing height. Then allow animals to graze if that’s part of your program.
Maintenance is always key.
Once your pasture has returned to full health, it’s important to institute a good maintenance program. This is especially important for good weed control, as weeds will take over a pasture over time and you’ll be back where you started, if not worse.
Mowing the pasture with your rotary cutter twice a year will promote grass growth and help keep weeds down. You can also spot-control weeds with an herbicide spray that is appropriate for your area, existing vegetation, and animal use. Always read and carefully follow label instructions on any chemical additive.
Soil, seed, and maintenance are the ways to a healthy pasture. And remember, always read the Operator’s Manual before operating any piece of equipment and follow all operating and safety instructions.