Recent rains have greened up the countryside, and upon close inspection of the green plant material, many of those plants are what most folks in the cattle business would classify as weeds. 

If you are strictly in the cattle business, your first priority should be to grow grass to maximize pounds of beef produced per acre. Coming out of a severe drought, which we all hope we’re doing now, weeds tend to be a very common problem in our pastures. So if your main goal is to grow grass, here are some tips to consider for effective weed control:

  • Identify the problem weed
  • Use a calibrated sprayer
  • Spray at the right time, at the right rate, with the right herbicide
  • Recognize that drought-stressed or mature weeds will be more difficult to control
  • Follow label directions for mixing, application and proper use.

Now let’s take a closer look at some very important points regarding pasture weed control.  Before you crank up the sprayer to apply herbicide, identify the weeds you are targeting. Not all weeds are created equal.  If you need help with ID, there are multiple sources including some excellent web sites like rangeplants.org.

Have you calibrated your sprayer?  This should be done every season. Calculating the volume you spray is critical to know how much product to put into the tank.  Ideally, you should be putting out 20 to 30 gallons of mix per acre.  When you calibrate, also inspect nozzles, screens, lines, pump, etc., to make sure everything is working properly. 

Is now the right time to spray for weed control?   Most weeds are best controlled when they are young and actively growing, while others such as perennials like Silverleaf Nightshade, are best treated when they are in full bloom or have fruit on them. Spraying them too early results in a top kill, but regrowth usually occurs. Read the label carefully to determine timings for specific weeds. 

Which herbicide should I use?  This is always a good question and one that takes some serious thought as it depends on the weeds being treated, and your surroundings (i.e. next to cotton field, etc.).  For more specific information regarding herbicides labeled for specific weeds, visit the web site called PESTMAN.  Not only does this website provide herbicide recommendations and estimated costs, but it also provides images of the selected plants.

So you are a pro that sprays weeds every year, and think there is no need to read all of that fine print on the label? WRONG.   Failure to follow labeled directions can lead not only to poor weed control, but also is a violation of federal law.  Formulations and concentrations are always being updated, which could result in new application rates.

 If you are in the business of growing grass, you should know that research has shown that in native pastures, for every pound of weed controlled, you should replace those weeds with one pound of grass, while in improved pastures that can increase to one pound of weed controlled resulting in 4 to 5 pounds of grass produced.