Winter Pasture Planting Tips

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With the widespread rain received recently, soil moisture levels are looking a lot better just in time for winter pasture planting. Winter pastures can often provide some of the most nutritious forage we are capable of growing in Northeast Texas, often exceeding the nutrient requirements of our livestock.

When soil moisture conditions allow for early planting, small grain pastures can often provide grazing from December to April. Mixing ryegrass with a small grain can push the grazing window into May. Ryegrass only and ryegrass-legume pastures can often be used from February into May. Excess winter forage can be harvested by bringing in extra animal units for short-term grazing or by cutting and storing as either dry hay or haylage, depending on weather conditions.

Ryegrass is typically planted at a rate of 25 to 30 pounds per acre broadcast onto the top of short grass sod (or drilled to a depth of about 1/2 inch). Some producers broadcast ryegrass onto pasture that has been grazed short and lightly disked to reduce warm season grass competition. Planting into existing sod is typically done early to mid-October. Planting into a disked and prepared seedbed is typically done mid-September to early October, depending on soil moisture.

Small grains (oats, wheat, rye and triticale) are typically planted at a rate of 80 to 120 pounds per acre drilled or disked to a depth of about 1 to 1.5 inches. If mixing ryegrass with a small grain, drill in the small grain and then broadcast the ryegrass over the top so that both species are planted at their desired depths.

Clovers are also very desirable in winter pastures and are great to plant along with ryegrass because of their excellent forage quality and ability to supply nitrogen into a winter pasture stand when grazed by livestock. Clovers are sensitive in relation to the soil types and pH they prefer, so it is best to select a clover variety that is adapted to the type of soil in the pasture you plan to plant. Purchase seed that is already coated with the proper inoculant of Rhizobium bacteria, so that the clover can utilize nitrogen from the air, or purchase the proper inoculant for your clover variety and blend it with the seed just prior to planting.

White clovers are well-suited to heavier soils with poor drainage and are typically planted at 3 to 4 pounds per acre. Arrowleaf and Crimson clovers are more suited to well-drained sandy to loamy soils. Arrowleaf is typically planted at 8 to 10 pounds per acre while Crimson is typically planted at 16 to 20 pounds per acre.

If you would like more information about winter pastures for livestock or any other agriculture-related topic, contact Brian Triplett at the Bowie County Extension office, 903-628-6702. Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

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