|Homes and Lifestyle|
Montana Farm and Ranch: Dealing with Manure
September 22, 2009
MONTANA STATE EXTENSION SERVICE - Pastures are a very integral part of every livestock operation. No matter how many acres of land you own, it is very important to keep them healthy. The healthier the pasture, the healthier your livestock will be. Pastures can easily be damaged by grazing animals. Damage can be done on any size livestock operation, but smaller parcels are particularly susceptible to overgrazing. It is very easy to overestimate forage growth. Incorrect estimates can damage grass plants for decades.
Ever since cattle were brought into Montana, producers and research scientists have been improving grass species that produce more production than the native varieties. These improved varieties will produce more forage and are less susceptible to overgrazing. Many of these varieties are selections from the best native plants.
Many times landowners are faced with the decision about replacing a grass stand. This decision is not an easy one. First you must determine if a grass stand needs replacing or is it just overgrazed. Many times a pasture will look totally devoid of grass but the roots are still there. If there are roots and some green grass blades there may be hope. What your pasture may need is time to recover and some TLC. If you do decide to replace the stand it is important to do it right. Most small acreage landowners do not have the equipment to do a proper job of preparing the soil for planting. The key to planting any seed is proper seed to soil contact. It requires a clean seed bed that does not contain any competitive plants that will reduce seedling vigor.
Sometimes landowners find that the easiest method to replace a grass stand is to employ the services of a local landowner who has the equipment to do the job. Then your only job is to select the grass species of your choice. Dryland stand replacement is even a larger risk since you are at mercy of the rain. If it rains you will be successful, if it does not rain, you can try again in the fall or the next spring. Crop failures on dryland pasture are common. The key is to have the seed in the ground early in the spring when you have the best chance for rain and the plants will be ready to compete against annual grass and weeds.
What ever you decide to do, you will need to keep all livestock off newly planted acres for at least a year to allow the new plants to mature.
Whether you have irrigated pasture or dryland pasture, it is important to select the best varieties for the soil, rainfall, and livestock that you own. The links on the right side of the page will assist you in that decision. I would also highly recommend that you contact you local Extension Office for advice on grass varieties that do a good job in your location.