Ag Notes: Ways to increase forage production

January 13, 2004|JERRY LITTLE

Many farmers are shifting to cattle or goat production to offset lost income as tobacco acreage continues to decline. Livestock production is a good choice because Kentucky has more than seven million acres of forage production.

Forages haven't been intensively managed for top production because we historically have a surplus, especially in the spring. As the number of livestock operations continues to grow, many producers want to increase pasture and hay land production so they can increase their stocking rate.

Livestock producers can take some simple steps that can dramatically increase, maybe even double their total forage production.

Determine if you're effectively using the forages you now produce. If not, try to more efficiently use current production by increasing stocking rates, rotational grazing, or more timely hay harvesting.

If you're effectively using your forages, concentrate on maximizing per-acre production. Soil fertility is the foundation of high forage production; without adequate nutrients, intensive management practices will fail.


So begin your plans for higher-yielding forage by getting samples for a soil test on a warm winter day when the soil isn't frozen. Taking these samples is easy, and the test is free in Boyle County. The Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service has more information on soil testing. The research-based results will list exactly what nutrients and how much of each needs to be applied.

Of all soil nutrients, nitrogen usually gives you the highest yield return. Unfortunately, nitrogen prices have nearly doubled the past few years. The good news is that you can totally eliminate or significantly reduce the need for nitrogen in pastures and hay fields by over-seeding them with red clover next spring. Red clover will last about three years. Because it's a legume, red clover will supply all or most of the nitrogen the grasses need. Be sure to choose a high-yielding red clover variety and use certified seed.

In addition to providing required nitrogen, clover also will improve forage feed value and will reduce the effects of fescue toxicity.

Other ways to improve forage production include planting summer annual grasses for mid-summer grazing, stockpiling fescue for early winter grazing, and renovating with improved varieties.

For more information about soil fertility, spring over-seeding with clover, and other ways to improve forage yields, contact your local county extension office.


"I hear your cousin got hurt when he visited your house for the weekend."

"Yeah, we were having a contest to see who could make my mother-in-law the maddest, and he won."

Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

Central Kentucky News Articles