Dirk Philipp, associate professor of animal science for the University of Arkansas, says long term damage means less forage and less grazing for animals in the coming season. “Stocking rates are kept about the same throughout the year, so in fall and winter there’s particular high pressure on pasture and forage health,” Philipp said.
Philipp offers some general pointers on getting pastures safely through the winter into a new growing season.
“First, do some triage if necessary,” he said. “If conditions get really rainy and muddy, don’t sacrifice your best pastures for stocking and hay feeding.”
Philipp recommended moving animals off prime pasture areas and onto a “sacrifice pasture.” Growers may have to repair that area later, but the cost will be more manageable on marginal lands.
“Most farmers maintain sacrifice hay feeding areas anyway,” Philipp said. “And that makes sense in the long term. This won’t be the last winter with a lot of rain.”
Pasture managers should plan on overseeding damaged areas if using cool season perennial pastures such as tall fescue or orchardgrass.
If there are large mounds of livestock manure in the immediate area, Philipp recommends using a harrow, beam, or whatever’s available to drag the waste over the affected pasture, redistributing the nutrients.
The use of a harrow or other drag will also help rough up the pasture surface, better preparing it for overseeding. Overseeding is defined as broadcast planting grass seed directly onto the soil without tilling or otherwise disrupting it.
Philipp recommended overseeding during the second half of February, and keeping animals off of the affected area for several months, in order for the new growth to take hold.