PDA

View Full Version : Improving Pasture



cowgirljenn
Jan. 28, 2010, 02:40 PM
We moved into this place in late May, and the pasture was completely overgrown in Johnson grass and weeds. The horses and drought seem to have taken eaten the Johnson grass down to almost nothing.

We want to improve the pasture and maybe set aside 5 acres for hay (going to talk to a neighbor who hays 5 acres for more info - make sure that it actually is workable/worthwhile).

So, I know nothing about how to do this. :) But I know I should contact my county ag extension agent as this is supposedly one thing they help with. Apparently, that's not quite true for my agent as his only response was to plant coastal jigs. I need a wee bit more info than that..

So... are there any good resources for how to improve pasture? I'm in central Texas, so coastal is probably what we would be growing... but I'm lost!

Bluey
Jan. 28, 2010, 03:38 PM
I am not sure what kind of county agent you got.:no:
Go to talk to the county agent in the next county.;)

Seriously, go to your NRCS office, at your local USDA office.
There are EQUIP programs signing up right now that will help you with all you need to know AND pay up to 75% of your costs of establishing/renovating your pasture.

cowgirljenn
Jan. 28, 2010, 03:54 PM
I am not sure what kind of county agent you got.:no:
Go to talk to the county agent in the next county.;)

Seriously, go to your NRCS office, at your local USDA office.
There are EQUIP programs signing up right now that will help you with all you need to know AND pay up to 75% of your costs of establishing/renovating your pasture.

I think my county agent flunked being a county agent. :)

Thanks for the idea on NRCS and USDA offices - going to look for those.

Bluey
Jan. 28, 2010, 03:58 PM
I think my county agent flunked being a county agent. :)

Thanks for the idea on NRCS and USDA offices - going to look for those.

Ask also for the new this year, only in TX but a federal program, a grass conservation program, where they will pay outright pasture on any established permanent pasture you declare you won't break up or sell for development for ten years.

If that fits your plans, you may get that also, over any other assistence you may get.

Be aware that the government is trying to cut expenses down and no ag program is immune to that, if they ever decide to follow thru with that, which makes long term programs somewhat questionable.:yes:

JSwan
Jan. 28, 2010, 04:06 PM
You should read up on Johnsongrass as it can be toxic in certain stages. As in fatal kind of toxic. Having said that - it's a good forage. I know that seems contradictory.

The first step is always a soil test. Until you know what kind of soil you have to work with, efforts to reseed will meet with marginal success. Since your extension agent evidently graduated at the bottom of the class (hey, someone has to right?:winkgrin:), check out the local FSA office and soil and water conservation office to see if there is any free info on soils and plantings for your area. You can also check with those offices to see if there are any programs you qualify for (if you're interested in that sort of thing).

Once you have your soil test results, you'll know if you need to lime or fertilize or both. Your feed store, again, can help arrange that. You can also stagger fertilizing and liming over a period of time - spreading the cost out.

Your feed store may sell a typical pasture mix for your area - but it's almost impossible to get rid of Johnsongrass so if you want to do that - be prepared for hard work.

LauraKY
Jan. 28, 2010, 04:07 PM
Interesting. Checking into the EQUIP program. After two years of drought...not great pasture. Does anyone know if this applies to horses (since I've been told by the USDA that horses are NOT livestock?)

oldpony66
Jan. 28, 2010, 04:40 PM
Also, look on-line... whatever the closest Ag school is to you... they may have some online resources to just help you get started and thinking about different options. I use Penn State's but that would obviously not apply in your area.

cowgirljenn
Jan. 28, 2010, 06:55 PM
You should read up on Johnsongrass as it can be toxic in certain stages. As in fatal kind of toxic. Having said that - it's a good forage. I know that seems contradictory.


Yeah, I kind of freaked out a bit after we got here and there was Johnson grass -everywhere-. When we looked at the property, nothing was growing yet. We put in the offer, Mr. CGJ was here for the inspection and didn't pay attention to grass type. I arrived with horses in tow to find Johnson grass everywhere.

We pulled them off the grass after we had rain after the drought (time of stress) and it was pretty much gone by our first hard frost. I'm hoping to replace it with something a little less scary... :)

Thanks for the other info. I appreciate it!

Tom King
Jan. 28, 2010, 10:01 PM
50 % of Ag Ex agents finished in the bottom half of their class. I asked one many years ago about perrenial Rye grass and he told me that I had to let it go to seed for it to be perrenial.

Alagirl
Jan. 29, 2010, 12:22 AM
And I thought Hank Kimball was meant as a joke.... :lol:

Ihatefrogs
Jan. 29, 2010, 06:11 AM
Seriously, go to your NRCS office, at your local USDA office.
There are EQUIP programs signing up right now that will help you with all you need to know AND pay up to 75% of your costs of establishing/renovating your pasture.

Have you used this program? Can you explain a little more about what they helped you do?

I went to their website and it sure sounded like they would clear, level, fence, seed....(and the list goes one) for you. Plus I would fall into the beginning farmer category which would be good for 90% of the costs. But that's got to be too good to be true? Right?

Bluey
Jan. 29, 2010, 06:34 AM
Have you used this program? Can you explain a little more about what they helped you do?

I went to their website and it sure sounded like they would clear, level, fence, seed....(and the list goes one) for you. Plus I would fall into the beginning farmer category which would be good for 90% of the costs. But that's got to be too good to be true? Right?

No, it is true, the government conservation programs have been around since the dust bowl and they follow established conservation practices for each area of the country.
If you have fields that need terracing, you can apply and those tax dollars are at work with either outright help, called "cost sharing", that means they provide some expertise, like flagging the terraces for you and then a percentage of what it will cost you to install the terraces, up to a certain limit, you can't overcharge.

They have programs for establishing or reestablising pastures, waterways, fencing developing water, yes, even paying to drill wells, lay lines, put up windmills, control brush or weeds, whatever you need that qualifies for their conservation goals, you can sign up and get help.

You will have to open your books to them, they are nosy and want to see tax returns and all that, but then, if you run a good operation, why not?

Each county gets a budget, people sign for all kinds of programs and they serve you as you are approved for and first come, first in line gets it, until the money is gone.
If you don't make it this year, next one you will be first in line for whatever you have been approved for.

If you have some needs you think they can help with, go see them and see what they suggest.

Your tax dollars at work, educating land owners and helping them take good care of their land.

About now those offices will be having meetings where they explain those programs and you may ask questions and visit with others that have and are going to use the programs, so you may want to attend some of those in your community.

deltawave
Jan. 29, 2010, 08:14 AM
You could also try the local farm bureau, if you have one. They are who I go to with questions--soil testing, seed, whatever.

NancyM
Jan. 29, 2010, 10:38 AM
Keeping a small acreage for hay may not be cost effective for you. If you get a hay farmer to come in to do the work for you for a percentage of the hay (usually half the hay), you don't get much hay AND the farmer may not put your best interests (producing horse quality hay) at the forfront of his schedule. Farmers who cut hay for others do so without much regard for weather forcasts, cutting, raking and baling takes place in rotation of the land he has to get done, which may not make for the best hay for you. If you wish to do your own work, watching weather forcasts religiously for the exact window of opporunity that is best for your hay, you will have to buy all the equipment yourself, mower, rake, baler etc, which is cost prohibitive for a 5 acre field. With a small place, just use it for grazing and buy hay, good hay, from your neighbour. We have 55 acres of hayfield here, and that is hardly enough to make the cost of equipment viable for haying.

SkipHiLad4me
Jan. 29, 2010, 11:10 AM
50 % of Ag Ex agents finished in the bottom half of their class.

I take offense to that :( So I hope that means that I'm not in the bottom 50% ;)

But to the OP, not all extension agents are created equally :winkgrin: So don't feel bad about calling your neighboring county agent to see if he/she is more responsive. The EQIP program through NRCS is great! and at least in my area, horse farms still qualify for cost share money for pasture improvements. Each offers different types of cost share programs depending on what they've identified as their key program areas. If you find yourself needing additional assistance with soil/forage info, check to see if your Department of Ag has regional agronomists. Ours does and they guy that covers my area is like a walking encyclopedia of all things soil, field crop, and forage :D Farm Bureau may only be for insurance and political purposes depending on your area - they don't give any type of production information here.

Bluey
Jan. 29, 2010, 12:26 PM
Originally Posted by Tom King
50 % of Ag Ex agents finished in the bottom half of their class.


I take offense to that :( So I hope that means that I'm not in the bottom 50% ;)

-
-
-
.

Reread that.:D
I think it was posted as a mathematical tongue in cheek phrase.:lol:

mlranchtx
Jan. 29, 2010, 12:31 PM
WOW! I'm so excited! I saw this thread and ran right to the county NRCS office. Equip program is the way to go for me.

Here's the basics for me (in Fannin County, TX)
They pay $120/acre for prep/planting and $65/acre for fertilizer. These were last years rates so he said it may go down slightly.

So, I called the guy who sells sprigs and we can get Tifton 44 sprigged for $125/acre. That's the sprigs and the sprigging.

All we're going to pay for is gas for the tractor for hubby to do the soil prep and weed killer.

SWEEET!!! I was planning on sprigging 10 acres this spring. Now, it looks like I can do our entire back 50 acres for less than $1000!

Yes, there is a contract. Here's how explained it. The first year you have to follow the plan to a "T". The next nine years, if you sell the property to a developer or you develop it, you have to pay them back. If you sell it and the buyer says they will keep it in pasture, there's no problem.

I'm sooo excited! Looks like we'll get some awesome pasture and great hay!

Note: I went to the USDA office in the neighboring county because I've had bad experiences in my own county. The guy was the supervisor over my county and he told me who to deal with and to call me if I had any trouble :winkgrin:

SkipHiLad4me
Jan. 29, 2010, 12:47 PM
Originally Posted by Tom King
Reread that.:D
I think it was posted as a mathematical tongue in cheek phrase.:lol:

LOL OK I got it now :D Maybe I WAS in the bottom half after all.... hmmm....

Bluey
Jan. 29, 2010, 01:00 PM
LOL OK I got it now :D Maybe I WAS in the bottom half after all.... hmmm....

Naw, you understood what I meant and sometimes that requires one to be way above the mean, I garble my thoughts so much even I can't understand myself.:p

MlranchTX, glad that you found someone and that those programs will help you.
They are meant to help take the best care we can of land, not only with money incentives, but with the information all get from the latest research, that most people don't even know is out there.

DiablosHalo
Jan. 29, 2010, 03:01 PM
The 90% cost share is not to good to be true! It applies to historically underserved demographics, limited resource farmers, beginning farmers (first 10 years of farming). Everyone else is 75%. Some cost shares are only 50%/65% to historically underserved.

Are horses ag?!? Well... it varies even from county to county within each state. In my county- our county conservation district will dell out state cost share monies to horse people even if they do not have a horse business. In the counties south of us you wouldn't qualify at all unless you were a horse business and had tax returns with a schedule F to prove it. This is the rule for all federal cost share monies here also- you must have a tax return with a schedule F proving you make $1000/year of raising horses or hay. Boarding horses does not qualify- for the most part.

There is a FSA office (Farm Services Agency) housed within each district office (where nrcs is located also) - they are like the bank for farmers. You have to go to them to sign up as a "farm" - once you are in their system you should be good to go.

The Grassland Preserve Program (what Bluey was referencing I think) is a nationwide program. You can have rental rates for grasslands or permanent easements. In our state, you can sell NRCS your easement and then go to the state and sell it again for preservation. But not the other way around. NRCS has to be first in line. ;)

Kate66
Jan. 29, 2010, 11:59 PM
CGJ, definitely look into how much a farmer is going to charge you to cut and bale. I have a 5 acre field that I round bale mostly for the cows. Quite honestly, depending on how the weather has been, it just isn't worth it. Fertiliser went through the roof last year. The farmer we use, charges $40 an acre (which is cheap) to cut, wind-row, fluff and bale. He even loads it only my trailer for that. A couple of years ago we got 12 round bales in one cut - great. This year I think I got 3 in the 1st cut and 5 in the 2nd cut - total of 8 round bales at a cost of $400 plus having to fertilise etc - honestly, wasn't worth it. I could have bought tighter, nicer bales for $50-$60 each and horse hay round bales for $65 each. Might be a better idea to find a local farmer who sells square bales in the field. The same farmer that cuts my cow hay sells horse squares, in the field, at $4.75 a bale.

cssutton
Jan. 30, 2010, 04:27 PM
A couple of comments.

First, you can get rid of Johnson Grass unless you have neighboring property covered with it and something to transport the seed from their property to yours.

At least, I have been able to do it.

Glyphosphate (Roundup, Killzall, etc.) will kill it.

The way I do it so as not to kill the vegetation under it or near it is with a weed boom on the front of the tractor adjusted at a level higher than the desirable grasses.

A weed boom is simply an 8 or 10 ft plastic pipe with rope wicks. Fill the pipe with one thirsd glyphosphate and the rest water.

I have NOT done this on horse pasture with horses grazing. Johnson Grass in some stages is very toxic and it may be so after the application of herbicide, so one would need to investigate that.

You will not get all of it with one pass. You drive over it and wait a couple of weeks and do it again. Eventually, you can beat it.

As for raising hay, I did for years when I had brood mares.

Unless you have 10 or more horses and enough acreage to raise all of your hay, plus additional acreage for those poor haying years, you will come out much better than raising your own.

Remember, in addition to all of the equipment and land, you have to have a place to store the hay. Add all of the numbers up, throw in the fertilizer and the need to occasionally reseed and you will see that you can buy an awful lot of hay for the same money.

Further, unless you have raised hay before, you have no idea how much time it will take you to mow, rake, bale and put hay in the barn. Especially when it gets rained on and you have to turn it over to dry it and it ends up good cow hay but not good enough for your horses. That gets old.

During the years I raised hay, I kept 20 or 25 cows so I could feed them the not horse hay quality. I always made enough bad hay to feed the cows.

CSSJR