Most successful cattle producers base decisions about their grazing lands on the long-term future of the land resource rather than managing solely for today. Drought only amplifies the value of this forward-thinking approach.
With varying levels of drought across most of the country west of the Mississippi River — including exceptional drought conditions in the West and Southwest — the 2021 grazing season will impact grazing seasons for years to come. Be sure you take steps to help heal the land and return it to full production as quickly as possible.
If you’ve been fortunate to see some moisture replenishment, it’s critical to ensure every drop goes toward growing grass. Experienced drought battlers say it’s hard to overstate the importance of keeping forage grasses ahead of weed competition.
“As we are coming out of drought, the pressure from weeds is greater than in a normal year simply because nature tries to fill a void,” says Will Hatler, an Idaho-based field scientist with Corteva Agriscience. “Controlling weeds during that recovery process takes the moisture that the weeds would have taken and gives it to the grasses, which helps them recover and helps them recover faster.”
Many producers work to keep weeds out of the way every year. But during drought, grasses are weak and it can be difficult to avoid overgrazing. If you see bare ground, Hatler says, the weeds will come back before the grass.
“If you don’t spray,” he explains, “you’re going to have a weed problem and they’re going to flourish. The weeds are going to be a lot stronger than they have been in the past.”
A broad-spectrum product, such as DuraCor® herbicide, provides control, along with the residual control needed to hold weeds out and give desirable grasses time to reclaim the bare spots.
Timing is critical, Hatler says.
“We need to be scouting early,” he explains. “If you’re getting enough moisture to grow some weeds, then you are getting enough moisture to grow some grass. You’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Do I want to grow weeds or do I want to grow grass?’”
But weed control is only part of the equation, he adds. Good management prior to and during drought helps keep grasslands in the best condition possible.
If you can, delay turnout to allow native pastures some rest from grazing during the growing season to build root systems and vigor. But remember: Meaningful recovery of desirable plants occurs only when air temperatures and soil moisture are favorable for relatively rapid plant growth. True restoration likely will require reduced spring and summer stocking rates.
“Good grazing management coming out of drought is a big part of the recovery process,” Hatler says. “But so is weed control.”
Control the weeds and you’ll grow grass, Hatler says. Properly manage that grass and you’ll help speed up the recovery process.
“We’ve learned through the years that recovery takes time. Secondly, it takes rainfall,” he notes. “If weed pressure is excessive when you start to get moisture, then weed control typically pays big dividends in terms of allowing the grasses and the desirable plants the time, along with the moisture, to help them recover.”
™ ® Trademarks of Corteva Agriscience and its affiliated companies. Under normal field conditions, DuraCor® in nonvolatile. DuraCor has no grazing or haying restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter. Label precautions apply to forage treated with DuraCor and to manure and urine from animals that have consumed treated forage. DuraCor is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Consult the label for full details. Always read and follow label directions. © 2021 Corteva.