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Forage Minute

By Megan Taylor and Jerry Volesky
Nebraska Extension

SOIL TESTING

So you pulled some soil cores and you have the results in your hand, now what?

On your soil test results you will want to check out pH, potassium, phosphorus and sulfur. Today we will focus on phosphorus recommendations, specifically looking at Bray-1 and Mehlich-3 test results.

Phosphorus has three tests that can be completed to test soil P levels: Bray-1, Olson, and Mehlich-3 are the most widely used. These are measured in parts per million (ppm) and recommendations are dependent on dryland and irrigated fields. Values will differ between Bray-1/Mehlich-3 and Olson test results, so carefully look at your soil test before making fertilizer purchases. If your soil tests range from 25 or greater for Bray-1/Mehlich-3, you do not need to add any phosphorus for irrigated and dryland.

0-5 apply 60 lbs. P2O5/acre for irrigated or 40 lbs. P2O5/acre dryland.

6-15 apply 40 lbs. P2O5/acre for irrigated or 30 lbs. P2O5/acre for dryland.

16-25 apply 30 lbs. P2O5/acre for irrigated or 20 lbs. P2O5/acre for dryland.

These values can be found online on the CropWatch website under the alfalfa section and include the values for the Olson test as well. Also depending on your fertilization schedule, you can plan to apply phosphorus in two year increments for dryland fields; take the single year recommendations and double to calculate the two year needs.

Remember if you are still wanting to pull soil cores sample at 8 inches or historic depth. Collect samples by grid, soil type, or representative area (40 acres or less). Then pull 10 to 15 random soil cores and combine in a plastic bucket to represent one soil sample. Take about a pint of soil and submit to an accredited lab.

GRAZING GRASS

Grass remaining for winter grazing can help cut feed costs for stock cows. Your management can greatly influence how effectively this works for you.

Grazing winter range or pastures has several benefits. It can save as much as a dollar a day per cow compared to feeding hay. On native range, there is little risk of damage to the grasses because they are dormant and winter stocking rates can be somewhat higher compared to the summer. Often times, you will notice that pastures only grazed during the winter are the most vigorous and productive.

It is important though, that you closely monitor body condition of the cows during the winter grazing period. Crude protein is generally the most limiting nutrient during winter grazing. The crude protein content of dormant warm-season grasses will be around 5 to 7%, and will slowly decline through the winter months from weathering and as the cattle selectively graze the higher quality forage in a pasture.

Stockpiled cool-season grass pastures are those that have been only lightly or not grazed during the growing season. These pastures may have slightly higher crude protein levels, but that quality will also decline as the winter progresses. Feeding the right amount of protein supplement while winter grazing will allow the cows to effectively utilize that winter forage and maintain the desired body condition.

A possible grazing management strategy that can be used is to do simple rotational grazing where cattle are periodically moved to a new winter pasture. This will allow for a more consistent diet quality when winter grazing.

Whatever your strategy, though, consider carefully what kind of nutrition animals are getting from the pasture so you neither underfeed nor overfeed expensive supplements. And be sure to provide salt, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A free choice at all times.

Winter grazing is a great opportunity to reduce winter feed costs. With proper management, it can help you meet many of your feeding goals.


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