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Mechanical aspect of inter-seeding red clover

In an earlier blog I wrote about inter-seeding red clover to improve pasture and combat the toxic tall fescue endophyte.

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In this blog I want to concentrate on the mechanical aspect. Pastures by nature are beaten down by heavy traffic. This pounding is hard on root structure plus water and air infiltration. Unlike row crops, the pasture do not get the deep tillage necessary to brake up the underlying hard pan.

Good management in rotational grazing will help compaction. And getting the animals off areas that are prone to damage when there are too wet, will help, but if you consider how often it has rained over the past three years here in the Midwest, moving them off pasture because it's too wet has been a struggle. It has been too wet almost continuously for a prolonged period. Just part of the many problems with pasture management.

In addition to the compaction, the natural fertilizer produced by the animals is not distributed evenly. I drive a back road to and from my daughter's school and I pass by one of the larger cattle ranches in Illinois. They have gorgeous rolling hills and the lushest grasses. Enough grass that they rarely ever graze it down too short. But what I am most taken by, are the massive array of dots across the pasture. I always think to myself, If those clumps we're worked over, it would distribute evenly this valuable fertilizer asset.

This busting up of the manure is something I do up to 6 times a year especially if we broadcast from a manure spreader. The benefits in addition to the distribution of the manure fertilizer, is to remove weeds, aerate, reduce parasites and insects, incorporate fertilizer and seed, level areas and spread dry plant residue. One other very important aspect is, and I don't know if your animals are like ours, but they tend not to eat up close to the clumps. So now there is an uneven grazing pattern when the clumps aren't distributed. This allows for weeds to get ahead of the grass and legumes in growth in and around the clumps.

So far I have only addressed the surface aspect, but the compaction is deep. With this implement, you can brake up the subsoil form 4 to 8 inches. With the runners and knives you can apply 28 to 32% liquid N multiple times a year. Lower rates and incorporation will provide maximum nitrogen usage and extend the length of N available to the plant during the growing season. Plus thiasol, (a sulfur source which benefits the N usage) and other micro nutrient can be added to the placed liquid. Refer to the Fescue Blog to understand micro nutrients like Magnesium and Calcium and how they affect animal health.

Broadcast N in the form of 28% early spring and Urea applications are always a gamble as to how much N, (and your hard earned dollars) goes drifting up to the sky. If you really knew, you would be concerned. Incorporation is always the best practice. And this extended length of N availability will extend the growing season and overall tonnage. It is always better to graze than put up hay mechanically, for economic reasons.

I can see in my mind, the way I want the pastures to look and pride myself in doing what's best in management for the animals. Even though they can't speak, I can see the appreciation in their eyes no.. their mouths.

Please contact us with thoughts about this concept and if you would like to implement it on your own farm or ranch. We will provide this service or equip you to accomplish it yourself in a way that fits the size of your operation.

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Posted in Organic Products Post Date 02/26/2017