Time to Control the Competition

Cattle on pasture at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center

Now is the time to plan and implement a change to native grass pastures for next year’s grazing.  Photo courtesy UTIA.

Native grasses offer beef producers a number of advantages, including enhanced profitability, drought tolerance and reduced exposure to fescue toxicosis says Patrick Keyser, professor and director of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Center for Native Grasslands Management.

“Keeping cattle off infected fescue in summer is especially beneficial because concentrations of toxins are often elevated at this time of year,” says Keyser.  “Furthermore, impacts of toxicosis are compounded by summer heat stress. Several studies have shown that stockers can experience increased gains, at least seasonally, by moving them off of tall fescue onto a warm-season forage.”

Now is the time to plan and begin implementing a change to native grass pastures for next year’s grazing. Keyser says controlling weed competition in advance of planting any perennial forage crop, including native grasses, is the key to success.

“Cool-season perennials should be controlled during the fall and warm-season perennials in August – September before planting is planned,” he says. “Because of the limited options for annual weed control, advanced weed control is critical. Killing the first flush of summer annual grasses like goosegrass, crabgrass, and seedling johnsongrass prior to planting can reduce competition from these species,” the forage expert emphasizes.

For more information about establishing and managing native grasses for forage, read Keyser’s collection of essays online at the UT Beef and Forage Center. Additional information is available from the UT Extension Publication “Establishing Native warm-season grasses for livestock forage in the Mid South, (Publication Number SP731-B). This and other publications are available for download at the UT Extension Publications website. Just enter the publication number or topic in the search engine.

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Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 615-835-4570, pmcdaniels@tennessee.edu