As we enter into the late summer and early fall season, it is time to start considering fall application of nitrogen on stockpiled pasture. Stockpiling pasture can save considerable cost to grazing operations. Cool season grasses, such as fescue and orchard grass respond very well, which makes up the majority of pastures in this area. Strip grazing also aids in the continued vigor of the cool season grasses throughout the winter. The general time to apply nitrogen to pastures or pastured hay fields is mid-August through September.
There are lots of advantages to fall application of fertilizer on pasture. The general response from a fall fertilizer application is around 20 lbs of dry matter increase per lb of nitrogen applied per acre. The forage will have an average protein of 14% and have a higher TDN from October to December than typical dry baled hay. Applying fall fertilizer can reduce winter feeding cost by as much as $100.00/cow/year. Fall calves can have a typical gain of 2 lbs/head/day and cows will have better body condition going into the winter months. Also consider the health of your pasture or hay field. Fall application of fertilizer will increase winter hardiness, root development, and faster 'green up' in the spring, which can help with weed control.
Potash is a critical nutrient to grass. As a matter of fact, grass can use as much potash in a hay season as nitrogen in the course of a year. It is a good agronomic decision to apply potash to pastures and hay fields in the fall for root development, crown health and development and drought tolerance for the next season. Potash has been at a substantially low price this season, another strong reason to consider potash this fall. Potash is a nutrient that we all need and in a lot of cases is low in soil tests across the Shenandoah Valley. In a pasture setting, an application of 50 to 75 lbs of potash per acre will be sufficient and in a hay field setting, an application of 100 lbs per acre is very typical. If poultry litter is utilized, then potash may need to be added, as poultry litter is low in potash compared to the grass crop's needs. Again, the reason to consider potash is two-fold; it increases stand health, longevity, and yield and the price this fall is very low.
If you have any questions regarding agronomic needs, contact Troy Grimm at (540)885-1265.