Weather reporters in recent years have struggled to find new ways to describe extreme-severe-historic drought.
It’s been worse for farmers and ranchers who have had to cope with it.
In beef producer meetings, Dr. Larry Redmon, Texas Agri-Life Extension forage specialist, encourages ranchers to be ready to make the most of any moisture they do receive. Here’s a summary of his six tips.
- Soil test and fertilize improved pastures according to the minimum recommendation before it rains. “Drought-stressed forage should be treated like a new seeding. It’s not the same grass it was,” Redmon says. “Soil test because otherwise you’ll over-apply expensive nutrients, under-apply needed nutrients and never apply the correct nutrients.”
- Remove winter pasture from warm-season perennial grass before greenup.
- Maintain a reduced stocking rate. You probably lost tillers, root stock and whole grass plants. Allow plants to regain vigor and reproduce.
- Pay attention to weeds. Weeds compete effectively with grass for moisture, sunlight and nutrients. They will inhibit recovery. In most cases, herbicide spraying is the best choice for weed control. During a drought, however, plants may not respond, so mowing may be the only option.
- Pay attention to grasshoppers and armyworms. “Ten hoppers per square yard can eat 60 percent of the grass,” Redmon says. “But it doesn’t cost much to control weeds or insects. It’s one of the bright spots of pasture management.”
- Don’t forget what just happened in the drought. “Better managed forages recover more rapidly and more completely than those not well managed,” Redmon says. “Well managed means fertilized appropriately, stocked appropriately and not grazed or hayed too short after September.”
In the long run, consider stocking for 75 percent of the long-term average rainfall, Redmon says. Consider, too, that lower-input forages like bahiagrass, kleingrass and natives may be more profitable even with reduced productivity.
Soil residual helps timing
Herbicides with soil residual activity may help with timing of weed control after drought, say a Dow AgroSciences expert.
At appropriate labeled rates, herbicides with residual activity control weeds that have emerged, and they remain active in the soil to control many that germinate for a period after spraying, explains Dr. Vernon Langston, a Texas-based field scientist with Dow AgroSciences. Not all pasture herbicides offer residual activity. Both GrazonNext® HL herbicide and Chaparral™ herbicide have residual activity, no grazing restrictions and can be sprayed up to waters’ edge.
Don’t spray when it’s too dry, Langston advises. Make sure weeds are actively growing for best results, and get on them early to ensure optimum grass response.
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