Fertilize Forages Early To End Hay Feeding

Feb 20, 2017
  • Producers can end hay feeding livestock by fertilizing forage grasses early.
  • Targeted fertilization has been shown effective in 300 Days Grazing Program.

Applying fertilizer now to wheat, rye, ryegrass and fescue can jumpstart forage growth and bring hay feeding to an early end, said John Jennings, extension forage specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Fertilization beginning in mid-February promotes earlier growth than waiting to fertilize in March, Jennings said.

“Many producers saw delayed emergence of ryegrass and small grain seedlings intended for fall or winter grazing because of the dry fall weather,” Jennings said. “But, those forages have finally emerged and are ready to fertilize for early spring grazing.”

In two 2016 Division of Agriculture farm demonstrations, producers fertilized ryegrass on February 20 and produced enough forage to stop hay feeding by mid-March, Jennings said.

Jennings said unfertilized ryegrass was only 3 inches tall in contrast to fertilized ryegrass forage that was 10 inches to 12 inches.

“Fescue will respond in a similar manner to early fertilization,” Jennings said.

Typical nitrogen rates for this approach are 50-60 pounds per acre, Jennings said. He recommends applying phosphorus and Potassium fertilizer as guided by soil test recommendations for pasture.

“Using this targeted fertilization practice has worked well for producers participating in the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s 300 Days Grazing Program to extend grazing seasons and reduce hay feeding,” Jennings said.


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