See tips on Spring pasture management factors to fight pasture decline and ensure your pasture is as productive as possible.

Pasture decline—”What were once lush green pastures have now turned to dirt. Weeds have replaced the grass and there’s not enough for the cattle to eat”—is a problematic concern for many Florida cattle producers, according to an article by the South Florida Beef-Forage Program. The article shares spring management tips to combat decline in the pasture so that pastures are as productive as possible and meet the needs of the herd. See the tips below.

Pasture Decline Tips

The article maintains that “There are usually multiple factors that contribute to pasture decline, but the one that has the most impact is overgrazing. Overgrazing happens when plants are regrazed before they recover from the previous grazing event.” If overgrazing happens constantly, then “plant death can occur. When this happens, undesirable species and weeds tend to take over.”

Combating overgrazing included the following considerations:

Recommended Stubble Heights. “Pastures should not be grazed below the recommended stubble heights to aid in regrowth” The recommended stubble heights for Bahiagrass is 2 inches, for Bermudagrass is 3-4 inches, for Stargrass is 6-8 inches, and for Limpograss is 8-10 inches.

Stocking Rate. “Stocking rate is the number of animals per acre. This should match the carrying capacity. The carrying capacity is the number of animals the pasture can support throughout a given period of time. This can fluctuate based on factors such as forage species, season, fertilization, nutrient requirements of the herd, supplementation, and future forage needs. A general rule of thumb for well-managed, fertilized Florida pastures is to have stocking rates as 1.5 to 4 acres per cow on bahiagrass; 1-3 acres per cow on bermudagrass, stargrass, and limpograss; and 5 to 25 acres per cow on native range. Note that these recommendations for well-managed and fertilized pastures. Unfertilized pastures would be on the higher end of the range, at about 4 acres/cow on bahiagrass.”

Soil Fertility. “Soil fertility is a key factor for forage growth. It is recommended to soil test pastures every 3 years (hayfields annually). Work with your Extension agent to develop a fertility plan based on these results. Optimizing soil fertility can lead to thick forage stands which can prevent weed emergence or outcompete emerged weeds.”

Weed Control. “Weed control should be a multifactor approach for best results. This can include methods such as soil fertility, mowing, and herbicide use. Mowing is a common control method, however, a cost-analysis should be done to determine if other forms of weed control would be more cost-effective. It should be noted that mowing certain weeds can spread vegetative plant stems which can cause them to root and increase weed presence. This is often seen with weeds such as prickly pear cactus. Another approach is the use of herbicides. Proper timing, method, rate, and herbicide selection are crucial to the effectiveness of control. This translates to cost-effectiveness. Early control of weeds can significantly increase the percent controlled. Weeds should be actively growing when the herbicide is applied. Herbicides can be broadcast over the entire pasture or spot sprayed for smaller weed patches.”

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.