Why Control Weeds in Pastures & Hayfields?
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When thinking about weed control, it is important to approach the topic with an idea of individualism. Even for the same farmer- each pasture and hayfield is it’s own situation that might require a different plan. Think through the overall production goal for that field, the timing of when that goal is aimed to be met, and what needs to happen to get there. It is important to spend time scouting in the hayfields and pastures we plan to implement control methods in so that the most appropriate strategy can be chosen.
A weed can be any plant that is growing in an undesirable location, so what one might consider a great addition to their flower beds, yards, or pastures- can be a weed right next door. Farmers often choose to implement weed control methods because the plant(s) in need of controlling are present in enough amounts that they’re interfering with the growth and production cycle of the desirable plants. Enough weeds can drastically reduce the quantity and quality of forages in the pastures, which can lead to a pasture or hayfield not being able to do it’s job- produce the plants best managed to support the diets of livestock animals.
When choosing control methods, it is important to scout your pastures for two reasons-
- To know the density of weeds present. (How many weeds vs. how much grass)
- The life cycle of the weeds present. (Annual- summer or winter, perennial, etc.)
These two things will help you decide if control options are needed, narrow down your best options or what combination to use, and when to get started.
It is important to combine a weed control program with soil fertility management and a grazing plan. We want to minimize the competitive weeds while also setting our grass up to grow to the best of it’s ability. If we think of our grass as an employee for our production goals and expect to get work out of it, we need to give it what it needs to do the job well. That includes taking a soil sample- to ensure proper lime and fertilizer applications, and grazing management. Take a look at your stocking rates (head / acre) and rotational grazing plans, if applicable. A conversation with your local extension agent is a great place to start!
It is necessary to read the label in full of any product you choose to use on your farm. Along with being held accountable for using the product as labeled (label is law), there are guidelines and instructions for use that will make the application of the product safer and more efficient use of your time and money.
A multi-method approach usually leads to a stronger weed control plan than choosing one strategy alone. Take that into consideration when evaluating your pastures and hayfields as individual situations in relation to your overall production goals.