Spring Wake-Up of Pasture and Hay Fields

Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist; rtaylor@udel.edu

It’s hoped that your pastures and hay fields have made it successfully through another winter. Now it’s time to get pastures actively growing for the needed grazing to extend your hay supplies or reduce the need to buy more hay and it’s time for hay fields to green up and be ready for the first good hay making weather later this spring. Many of our hay and pasture fields have had a relatively hard winter with little snow cover and some very cold temperatures.

If the stands have thinned a little or if you just want to speed up growth this spring to be able to graze earlier or boost spring hay yields, now is the time to add a bit of nitrogen (N) to give the grasses a boost. If the field has a good amount of legume present, you should restrict the amount of N applied at any one time to no more than about 30 lbs N/acre. However if few legumes are present in the field, then addition of 50 to 75 lbs N/acre will stimulate the grass to grow and fill in bare spots or at least tiller out fully to help shade out weeds that might try to fill in any void spots.

Unless your soil test shows low to very low levels of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), you should wait until after the first hay harvest or early to mid-June to apply the P and K that might be required according to your soil test recommendations or your nutrient management plan. Generally, the freezing and thawing and other reactions that occur over the winter months will release enough available K and P to support spring forage growth.

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