Fall forage management strategies are as varied as the people that grow the forages. Most farmers in Missouri have been producing forages for a number of years and have a good idea of what they want to do and when they want to do it. According to Travis Harper, University of Missouri Extension Agronomy Specialist, these ideas may be completely different from the ideas of a farmer that lives just down the road. Despite these different management strategies, Harper outlined a few key concepts to remember as fall approaches:
-Tall fescue is great for stockpiling - Fescue is more resistant to low temperatures than orchardgrass, brome, or timothy. This makes fescue an ideal candidate for deferred grazing, or stockpiling. Grazing stockpiled fescue in the winter is always cheaper than feeding hay. Cattle should be removed or hay should be cut from selected fields in August. Tall fescue is highly responsive to nitrogen and applying 40-80 pounds per acre will maximize production for fall and winter grazing. Strip-grazing results in the greatest utilization of this stockpiled forage.
-Legumes need rest - With the rising costs of nitrogen fertilizer, many forage producers have turned to legumes as a source of nitrogen for their pastures. In addition to the nitrogen they add to the soil, legumes also improve overall forage quality and can increase total forage yield. To ensure that legumes persist in a pasture, cattle should be removed by September 1. This gives legumes the opportunity to rest and build up root reserves going into winter, resulting in a higher quality stand the following spring. Many legumes, such as annual lespedeza, must be allowed to rest and produce seed if they are going to persist beyond the first year.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
-Forages need fertilizer - Adequate soil fertility is essential to the quality and persistence of forages. Fall is a great time to collect soil samples and apply recommended rates of lime, phosphorus, and potassium
-Thistles need to be controlled - Many producers who are trying to deal with thistle problems will mow their pastures throughout the summer in an attempt to prevent seedheads from forming. Even if pastures are mowed every week, some thistles will still bloom and seeds will be scattered throughout the pasture. Farmers return to problem fields in September or October and spray thistle rosettes with a labeled herbicide.
According to Harper, even the best-managed forage fields will decline over time. Once the desired forage makes up less than 50% of a field, it is time to consider a complete pasture renovation. MU recommends the "spray-smother-spray" method, especially when trying to eliminate KY31endophyte-infected tall fescue. Spray-smother-spray consists of spraying the entire pasture with glyphosate, planting a winter annual grain crop such as wheat, and then spraying the cover crop with glyphosate and seeding a new forage in the spring.
Some novel-endophyte, non-toxic tall fescue varieties to consider Jesup MaxQ®, ArkShield, Texoma MaxQII, DuraMax Armor, and Bar Optmia Plus E34. Converting as few as 25 percent of pasture acres to novel endophyte tall fescue and grazing those renovated acres during the breeding season improved conception rates of spring calving cows in a University of Arkansas study.
Harper adds that following the above concepts may delay the need for pasture renovation and may result in a greater use of forages.
Source: Ag Connection, MU Extension