Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for September 11, 2017
Labor Day in south Louisiana marks the end of summer, but not the heat. It ushers in a new season of football, hunting, fall gardening, preparing for winter pastures and wildlife food plots.
It has been a very wet year and not many livestock producers have been able to cut hay until very recently. Most of that hay has been growing all year and is very mature. I would expect the quality of the mature grasses to have a low feed value. That makes ryegrass pastures even more important to livestock producers.
First on the list is to get your soil analyzed. There is still plenty of time to take samples and get results back prior to planting. Unfortunately, there is no way to look at the soil and tell if it is low in any of the essential nutrients. A soil test will tell you if you have deficiencies and how to correct them so you can be successful in growing winter pastures or food plots.
One of the biggest challenges might be removing all the mature grasses so you can actually plant. Hopefully, hay removal will be an option for cleaning off the pastures prior to planting. Grazing livestock is also a good method for forage removal but most places I have been seeing have an overabundance of grass that probably will stay ahead of livestock’s ability to eat. Clipping can also be an option but it will still leave a lot of organic residue. If clipping is needed, start as soon as possible.
Timing of planting is always an issue and Mother Nature does not always cooperate. We have to be realistic and stay within the normal planting dates and then take into account when the cool season crops are needed. For most livestock producers the ideal planting time is going to be October. Beef producers should have winter pastures available to coincide with their calving season if possible.
The earlier your calving season starts the earlier in October I would want to plant so you can move cows with new calves onto ryegrass as soon as possible. The nutrient requirement for the cow goes up drastically when she calves and starts producing milk. That nutrient requirement will continue to go up until she reaches peak milk production 60 days after calving. Ryegrass is a good, high quality forage that can meet the lactating cow’s nutritional needs.
The earlier you plant in October, the faster you can get grass up (provided there is moisture), but there are problems. Early planted cool season forages are more vulnerable to armyworms and the fungal disease, blast. There can also be lots of competition from perennial grasses such as Bahia and Bermuda grasses the earlier you plant.
It seems that the second week in October is a good compromise for planting for livestock but I always keep an eye on the weather and adjust as opportunities for planting arise.
Ryegrass is the mainstay of most livestock cool season forages. Recommended varieties for 2017 include Attain, Big Boss, Diamond T, Earlyploid, Flying A, Fria, Jackson, Jumbo, Lone Star, Marshall, Nelson Tetraploid, Passerel Plus, Prine, RM4L, TAMTBO, Tetrastar and Winter Hawk. In our most recent 3 year yield average trials across 3 locations, Nelson topped the study, followed closely by Marshall , Prine , Earlyploid and Jackson.