Fall Pasture Management Following a Drought

The recent drought has affected crop production severely, and many horse farm managers and horse owners have noticed that pastures have suffered as well. Here are some practical steps that can be taken on cool season grass pastures to help them recover for fall and spring grazing.

Maintain fertility Now is a great time to sample your pasture soil. Contact your local county extension agent to borrow a soil probe and learn how to soil sample. Apply phosphorus and potassium as recommended by the soil test laboratory. For more information, see "Soil Sampling and Nutrient Management in Horse Pastures."

Fall Nitrogen Applying nitrogen in the fall will help desirable cool season grasses produce new shoots and thicken up your pastures come spring. Ideally, apply nitrogen twice in the fall: 30-40 pounds of actual nitrogen around mid-September and again around late October.

Overseeding If pastures are noticeably thin after a drought, consider overseeding to help fill in bare areas. Mow close before seeding, use a no-till drill, and seed in two directions. For more information, see "Establishing Horse Pastures."

Herbicides If weeds are an issue, fall is a great time to spray herbicides to control weeds. Your local county extension agent can help you identify major weeds and select an herbicide proven to control those weeds. See "Managing Weeds in Grass Pasture, Hayfields, and other Farm Sites" for more information. Always follow label recommendations when using herbicides, and watch carryover restrictions before seeding recently sprayed fields

Finally, remember that pastures are especially sensitive to overgrazing during and following drought. If needed, identify an area to "sacrifice" to avoid overgrazing the entire farm this winter.

Content was provided by Krista Cotten, assistant coordinator of UK's Horse Pasture Evaluation Program, and Ray Smith, PhD, professor and forage extension specialist at the University of Kentucky.

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Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.