Soil Health and Fertility

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HDRider

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I have two sections of pasture. Each section is about 50 acres, both have woods on them making them about 40 acres of pasture. I let my neighbor hay the place for a few years before I came home. I did not appreciate the harm that caused until I got back. Live and learn. The first thing I did since coming here was to lime everything bringing the pH to about 6 to 6.5.

I was covered up in broom sedge.

After getting the pH right I started putting 200 pounds of triple 19 on the north side each spring. I mow it once a year after the fescue has produced mature seed. The broom sedge is all gone and the fescue has crowded out all the weeds. That grass is beautiful. I have about 10% white clover and Bermuda there too.

I was experimenting.

I did not put out fertilizer on the south side. I did lime it and mow it like I did the fertilized north side. I feed hay on the unfertilized south side. I have one spot at the top of a hill where I feed every day during hay feeding season. I drill pearl millet there every spring. The cows love the millet. I get 4 or five grazes on it.

I drilled red clover and vetch on the south side about a month ago. It is up pretty good. I have a robust amount of recurring white clover on both sides. I am probably wasting time and money drilling because it is hard to keep cows off it during the winter. I have a 10 acre spot I will not let them on this winter if I can help it.

Yesterday I put 75 tons of chicken litter on the south side. I expect rain tonight.

It has not been a miracle turn around, but overall I am happy with the improvements in soil health and fertility.
 

simme

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Taking hay off pasture without adding fertilizer back will show the results in just a few years. Adding chicken litter will show results in a few weeks as long as there is still some grass there.
 
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HDRider

HDRider

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@HDRider

What was the price on the litter if you don't mind me asking, and also who did you get it from? Think we are in the same general area.
It was $40 per ton spread.

There are a lot of chicken houses close to me. We have a young man with houses and some real nice equipment to move and spread.

What town you close to?
 

Ouachita

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You're a few years ahead of me, but I've started adjusting the pH and nutrient. I also have about 80 acres forage. Most of it is newly cleared from pine and hardwood timber.
I spread 200 tons of lime, October 2020 and 204 tons of broiler litter October 2021.

The lime was $8,400, including an 80 mile one way haul, and spread. The litter was $5,200 including 6.5 mile one way haul and spread.

I haven't done a soil sample this year, but before the lime, my pH was between 4.8-5.5, and really liked to grow ragweed and prairie grass, and something my wife calls "pokey plants". She hates them. When she sees them, she goes to the house and gets a garbage bag and a shovel. Covers the plant with the bag and then digs it up.
 

Stocker Steve

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Lime is good. MIG will raise ph on its own, but it is a much slower approach.

Get a analysis of your litter. P is usually very high, and N varies a lot with type and amount of bedding.

Low cost purchased input approach here was to grid test first, apply variable rate lime second, spread low rate of litter to meet P target, and then spread variable rate granular K to meet K target. Targets will be quite different for grass vs. grass clover mix.
 

ClinchValley86

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That hay feeding will do lots. My unrolled has paid for itself in 1 year with the ability to out nutrients where I need them.

Stopped haying our place was the best decision we've made. It was needing lots of attention, attention that we could t justify. But thats not a problem anymore.

I haven't done any lime or fertilizer. But have managed the grazing for 3, going on 4 years now. Each year I am putting them tighter and tighter.

It's amazing what a turn around this place has made. Green spots everywhere! Easily 2 per square yard on most of it.

Have no weed problems anymore, not weed less, but it's not a problem. Horsenettle is going away. Broomsedge is pretty much all gone. Clovers are very pronounced.

I have spread ryegrass and red clover seed a couple times. That's about it.

We do import nutrients via hay. And out them where we want them.

The 3 point unrolled and temporary fence reels/pig tail posts are necessities. Complete game changers for soil health and fertility.
 

faster horses

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Wonder what effect grazing has on root exudates that is different from mowing?
I don't know much about root exudates, but livestock leave a footprint when it rains or after a rain. In that hoofprint you will find water, basically a tiny reservoir that the plants can use. Things like that an the manure livestock leave are just a couple of things that make livestock grazing different from mowing.
 

ClinchValley86

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Wonder what effect grazing has on root exudates that is different from mowing?
Have read or seen in videos that a cow's saliva has an affect on that nibbled piece of grass. Does something. Also, a cow's milk, whatever hits the ground, has a positive affect.

Their split hoof does something to the soil beyond just putting a tear in the soils surface.

An all around positive stimulation.

Throw birds in the mix and you're really making progress.
 

shaz

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Have read or seen in videos that a cow's saliva has an affect on that nibbled piece of grass. Does something. Also, a cow's milk, whatever hits the ground, has a positive affect.

Their split hoof does something to the soil beyond just putting a tear in the soils surface.

An all around positive stimulation.

Throw birds in the mix and you're really making progress.
Bottom line is that we can easily make the argument that grasslands need cows
 

shaz

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Another good argument is that organic matter is high and likely increasing in a grazing system. Not true of mowing.
Organic matter is around 50% carbon mostly stored underground where it is stable. Trees on the other hand have most carbon stored above the ground where it can be burned or just fall over and die. Either situation releases carbon
 

Stocker Steve

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Lots of ways to stimulate biology.
- Historically we broadcast salts or rock dust and tilled it in. The issue with this is usually cost.
- More recently we spray on water. Again cost is an issue.
- Currently increasing grazing density is popular. The issue with grazing density is the amount of labor involved.
- The holy grail is a corn/grass seed treatment that will fix nitrogen from the air. $$$

Everyone's limiting factor(s) are different, but, cross fencing is an impactful area to focus. I like to lay out rectangular paddocks with high tensile and then cross them with poly wire for 3 or 4 daily moves. Grass follows cattle (density).
 
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