Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
May 4, 2000

Drought Increases The Need For Forage Management

The continued lack of rainfall throughout much of the Midwest continues to be an increasing concern for agriculture producers. Moisture, fertility and grazing management are the key components for forage production. Many of the cool season varieties of meadows are heading out very short this year due largely to the lack of moisture. This usually spells a short hay crop for harvest.

Grazing management plays a key roll through drought conditions. Keep in mind the following observations when managing your pastures. Fifty percent of the leaf removal reduces root growth stoppage by 2 to 4 percent. If 60% of the leaf is removed, we see the increase of root growth stoppage to 50%. At 70% of leaf volume removal, the root stoppage increases to 78%. If 80% of the leaf volume removed, the root growth stoppage increases to 80%.

The variety and specie of forage influences the amount of soil nutrient removed. Legumes like alfalfa and red clover remove only 12-14 pounds or phosphorous, and 45-50 pounds of potassium per ton of production per acre.

Cool season grasses will remove approximately 40 pounds of nitrogen, 14 pounds of phosphorous and 50 pounds of potassium per ton of forage produced per acre. Warm season grasses will remove approximately 25 pounds of nitrogen, 5 pounds of phosphorous and 12 pounds of potassium per ton of production per acre.

Over grazing will destroy both the leaves and the root system. Grasses in the growing stage acquire approximately ninety-five percent of the plant food from the air. Leaves are often considered food factories. They have the ability under sunshine conditions to combine carbon dioxide from the air, water, nitrates, and minerals from the soil to make plant food. When we have short tops we have short roots, and short roots mean less future total plant growth. It is essential to have a root system to gather water, nitrates, and minerals for conversion into plant food.

It is very important to consider grazing management under drought conditions. Keeping a healthy plant for future production, even if it means supplementing the nutritional intake for grazing livestock, will save dollars when compared to loosing a stand of grass and or legumes. The cost of reseeding or reduced production in the future will more than offset this year’s grazing management. If we are to maintain the ultimate forage utilizer -- the beef cow -- we must provide plant management which in turn will provide an excellent source of nutrients for nutritional intake to be converted to a consumable product.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - May 4, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT050400.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004