2015 Seasonal Pasture and Forage Summary


The 2015 growing season began slowly with cool temperatures and below average rainfall resulting in slower than normal forage growth during the month of May. Frost on May 23rd did some damage to early growth and set both the grass and legumes plants back.

Pastures did not exhibit the explosion of growth that is normally seen in May but rain the end of May and through the remainder of the summer promoted good pasture growth. Hay yields on first cut were below average and those who waited until June to cut struggled with frequent rainfall making it difficult to make dry hay that did not get at least one rain. Growers who made baleage as opposed to dry hay saw significant benefits in forage quality.

Second and third cut hay yields were above average and for the most part good quality. Some producers were able to take a 4th cut and many producers took one more cut than they normally would due to above average growth in late summer and through the fall. It will be interesting to see how the fields cut during the "critical fall harvest period" survive the winter.

There continues to be good uptake of annual forages as a second crop following cereal harvest. The warm sunny fall promoted good growth in these double crop forages. Annual rye grass and cereals continue to be the predominate species for stored forage while numerous combinations are being used for grazing situations. The advantage of grazing these double cropped annuals is limited harvest cost and all the nutrients stay in the field and are readily available for next year's crop.

There has been an increased interest in grazing pastures with high legume content. The good summer growth of alfalfa along with the high protein and energy content make for excellent pasture productivity and animal gains. With proper management the risk of bloat can be significantly reduced or eliminated.

Producers using a rotational grazing system continue to see improved productivity from their pastures. Rotational grazing means having sufficient paddocks to move livestock to fresh pasture every 1-3 days and giving the grazed pasture plants adequate time for rest and recovery before grazing again. This recovery time varies depending on growing conditions and is longer as we move through the grazing season – often less than 30 days in the spring more than 40 days in mid to late summer.

It is important to maintain soil fertility in forage and pasture fields. Low phosphorous and potassium levels will not support optimum growth. Many of the soil test results from forage and pasture fields are showing low levels of thee essential nutrients. Hay and pasture fields with less than 35-40% legume content will have a positive response to additional nitrogen.

For more information, refer to fieldcropnews.com

For further information, refer to the OMAFRA Forage Website.

Technical information can also be obtained at the OMAFRA Field Crops Webpage and Crop Pest Ontario.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca