Forage management options abound for beef cattle producers following historic drought conditions a year ago, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.
At the recent O.D. Butler Forage Field Day at Circle X Land and Cattle Co., Dr. Vanessa Corriher, AgriLife Extension forage specialist, offered tips for re-establishing grass in bare areas of pasture.
"If you have a bare spot or need to re-establish, there are several steps you need follow," she said. Those could include either re-establishing with a seeded variety of Bermuda grass or with a hybrid variety such as Tifton 85, Jiggs or Coastal Bermuda grass.
"If you are interested in Coastal, Jiggs or Tifton 85, you have to establish vegetatively. This is a good time to start thinking about spring for next year."
Late summer is a good time to kill all existing vegetation, she said.
"A good way to do that is with five quarts of Roundup or glyphosate," Corriher said. "After (existing vegetation) has been killed off, the ground can lay fallow or you might want to consider planting a winter pasture such as ryegrass, oats or wheat."
Producers can bale the last growth of winter pasture for hay or disc under the last bit of growth, Corriher said.
Before getting ready to plant Coastal Bermuda grass, nighttime temperatures must be above 50 degrees, she said.
At the field day, Dr. Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension state forage specialist, discussed using mechanical aerators to break up tightly compacted soils in pastures.
"If you are on heavier clay soils, they are generally either too dry or too wet," he said. "February is a good time to do your aerating work. If you do it too early, you expose the root systems and they can get bit by frost. Much later and you can delay growth for quite a while."
Redmon says that it is important to pick a time when there is adequate soil moisture for aerating soils. If no aerator is available, a disc can do the same thing, he said.
"Compaction can be an issue and can occur at the soil surface or subsurface," he said. "Here in the Brazos Valley, we can have heavy soils that can be as hard as concrete. This can be caused by foot traffic (from livestock), heavy equipment or continuous plowing in the past."
Feral hogs have been a continuous problem for ranchers statewide. Beef producers at the field day were asking lots of questions on how to repair pastures due to deep rooting of the ground caused by feral hogs.
"How many of you have feral hog roots on your place?" Redmon asked producers, receiving quite a few chuckles. "You really need a big tractor that can move a lot of soil. You may need a ground leveler or dozer to be truly effective. A light tractor with a disc is usually not heavy enough to move enough soil and get it properly restored."