By Bruce Anderson
Is nitrogen fertilizer too expensive for pasture? It might be unless your fertilizer applications and grazing are managed well.
After adding a 100, 60, or even just 40 lbs of nitrogen per acre to your pastures in past years, did your grass grow well in April and May, then get stemmy in June with cows trampling and laying on more of it than they ate? By August was most of the grass brown or dead, matted down, and with the only green material so short that cows could barely get any of it?
If this describes your pastures, do something a little different this year. For starters, don’t fertilize all your pasture right away. You’re stimulating more spring growth than your cows can eat. Only fertilize half or three-quarters of your pasture now and then fence off the unfertilized area.
Now, go ahead and have your cows graze normally, being sure to finish grazing the unfertilized area in mid-May. Then check the weather and soil moisture. If you think there will be enough moisture for some good regrowth, fertilize this previously unfertilized area. Let it regrow for six weeks or longer and you should have some really good regrowth available for grazing in July or August.
What if it’s dry in mid-May with poor prospects for regrowth? In that case, save your money and don’t apply any more fertilizer. You still will have produced about as much pasture growth as if you had fertilized everything to begin with, but at less cost.