Checking forage plants, applying nitrogen fertilizer to grasses, conducting soil samples, grazing animals at specific plant heights and saving areas for emergency are all ways to practice good forage management.
To ensure high yields and quality in the spring, check for winter damage while it's still cold. Reseeding damaged areas now will prevent weed invasions in the spring.
Consider splitting up nitrogen applications rather than applying a whole year's supply in one application. Too much nitrogen at once results in nitrogen loss through volatilization, surface runoff, leaching and even denitrification in which nitrogen is lost in wet or standing water conditions, says Doo-Hong Min, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension specialist.
Keep up to date on soil nutrient levels to obtain high yields and high quality of forage. Optimum soil pH depends on the crop, but knowing the acidity or alkalinity level of your soil can help determine a treatment plan specific to your production.
If you use a rotational grazing system for your pasture, don't wait until plant height is 12 to 14 inches, Min advises. Rather, start to graze when plant height is 6 to 8 inches to make sure all paddocks are evenly grazed and don't mature too quickly in between grazing.
To reduce the risk of weather-related problems with your crop, make renovations to unused pastures or fields. Plant summer annuals such as sorghum-sudangrass, forage brassicas or millets.
Interested producers can learn more about spring forage management during Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Week at MSU. The Great Lakes Forage and Grazing Conference will take place March 7 and 8 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.
The conference will address forage making and feeding topics as well as grazing information important to dairy, livestock and equine managers. It will also feature a tradeshow, consisting of forage and haymaking suppliers along with distributors of grazing materials and equipment.
ANR Week, formerly Farmers' Week, is in its 97th year. MSU's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch sponsor the weeklong event that features a wide variety of workshops, conferences and seminars in areas such as agriculture, horticulture and natural resources. Learn more at www.anrweek.canr.msu.edu
For more information about spring forage management, please visit MSU Extension News at www.news.msue.msu.edu