I know this is late a little late in the season, but I am finally ready to work on my pasture! A little background...the house we bought was a foreclosure and because of this, the pasture was not maintained for about a year or so - think almost chest high weeds, grass, etc. We have allowed our neighbor to keep her 2 horses and mule on and off the property for about 3 months so mostly everything has been eaten or has died. I am new to this, and there are a lot of things that I have read about doing. I don't necessarily want to kill the entire pasture but I'm not sure what my plan should be. I'm located in middle-ish TN and from an online soil data map, we have a silty, fertile soil with a pH between 5.5-7 which sounds about right (we're located by a large river). I am planning on weeding and mowing but what do y'all recommend?
What are you wanting to plant? What kind of equipment do you have?
2,4-D Amine is a good broad weed killer, it will take almost everything non woody out of fescue and bermuda. Now is the time to be spraying it. It's possible to plant fescue or bermuda at the moment but all animals will need to be kept off of it until it is established.
If you don't have a way to open the soil, tractor and disk or plow, then you are probably better off not killing the plants. You don't want all your dirt washing away in spring rains, or seed not taking hold with no rain.
Mowing regularly can help A LOT in weed control, without spraying expense. You already have had the old tops grazed or knocked down with the neighbor's animals, so a good mowing should remove everything above the height you set on the mower, for good even, regrowth in the fields as the season develops.
Mowing no lower than 5 inches, not letting grass get above 8-10 inches, will help plants develop GREAT root systems, prevent weeds and grass setting seed, so you have good pasture all season. When grass sets seed, dries out, it is done growing for the season, so you prevent that by mowing to keep new growth coming all the time. Droughts happen, so don't mow if grass is not getting taller, you have no rain happening. Those long roots will do the best they can to feed the plant tops, hold the dirt down to prevent erosion.
Do you have large-leaf weeds to deal with, like burdocks, thistles? I would take the time to go around and either hand spray each one, or take my stick with the forked end, and cut them off below ground to kill them. I don't seem to get any regrowth with below-ground cutting the tops off. Stick weeder is pretty easy to use, carry with you while walking the fields. I named these two weeds, because with mowing they still grow, maybe flatten out, but may not seed out. I want them gone, so cutting off the tops does kill them to let grasses take over their space.
I would suggest getting a soil sample of your fields, because then you will know EXACTLY what fertilizers to apply for growing pasture. You should dig in several areas of the field, down the depth of a spade shovel, mix the various location soils, and when dry, put the mixed dirt in the bag to get tested. You will probably need about 2 cups of dirt total, for the soil sample, so mix the dirt well for a good test. My fertilizer plant sends in soil samples, so they have the information for knowing what I need in fertilizers to buy.
Fescues can grow fast, but may cause problems with bred horses or animals later on with endophytes. Problem is manageable, but you have to do the work with the animals. I don't buy fescues, since we have a foal every now and then. Read the seed labels, avoid Annual Seeds in quantity, they only grow the year planted. Perennial seed plants come back each year. Seed is EXPENSIVE, so you need to learn about it to get the best return in planting. You want to plant seed, gently COVER it by dragging so the birds don't eat it if you do plow or work up the ground. Pretty pricy bird food!