This year may be a good time to look at reseeding forage stands.
“Because of tough financial times, we’ve been allowing some of our forage stands to just go from year to year,” said Grant Lastiwka, a forage and livestock business specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
“In addition, many forage stands that were best suited to forage were taken out of forage and seeded into grain. With some of the current favourable cattle prices, we’ve got an opportunity to invest in having pastures that can pay their bills better. We can also take this time to convert grain land that is better suited to forage back to forage.”
Putting cropland into forage is also “an excellent tool for the soil health” and leads to higher yields once the land is returned to grain production, he added.
“The unusually warm temperatures recently are another good reason to be thinking about forage seed,” said Lastiwka. “Snow is an insulator while ice is not, and ice even limits the oxygen that gets to plants. Older stands with legumes are carrying a little higher disease load and are usually lower in soil nutrients. These plants are not as able to withstand stress as well as younger legume mix stands would be.”
The slightly better price for hay is also a factor.
“You should also consider putting some legume in with the grasses to raise its productivity and profitability,” he said. “Forage species that grow better for grazing are not usually the best hay species as they are better at regrowth as opposed to growing tall and creating a seed head.”
No matter what the regrowth strategy is, now is the time to make sure the right seed is available. “People looking for forage seed this year should probably look sooner than later,” said Lastiwka.
“Forage seed up until last year had not been moving well so fewer acres were left in forage seed production. As a result supplies are probably going to be lower this year. You may need to move quickly to get the species you want for the hay stand and the species you want for a pasture.
“Planting what works best for the use intended is the best way to gain the most production and profit per acre. This will allow more animals to run on any given acre which fits well with today’s strong cattle market and opportunities for herd growth.”