Summer Pasture Work Keeps Cattle Gaining

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Even with a spray program that has most pasture acres receiving a herbicide application every other year, weed escapes occur and brush saplings can encroach on McCrea Family Farms’ prime grazing space. Learn more about their pasture management and weed control strategies. 

It’s easy for the mind to wander during the intense summer heat.

But Andrew McCrea says it’s important to maintain focus, noting that summer pasture work is vital to keeping the McCrea Family Farms’ northwestern Missouri stocker operation on schedule year-round.

“For us, grass is critical regardless of the season,” McCrea says. “We prioritize our pastures and take care of them and invest in them.”

McCrea runs the fifth-generation crop and cattle enterprise near Maysville with his dad, M.L., and 16-year-old son, Luke. Throughout the year, mostly Missouri-sourced 400- to 500-pound calves arrive at the farm, which is about an hour northeast of St. Joseph. They’ll spend approximately five months grazing a dozen or so bluegrass and fescue pastures as calves. When calves reach 900 pounds, the McCreas weigh and sort them into load lots and send them up the road to a southwestern Iowa sale barn.

“We monitor grazing pressure and stocking rates closely,” Andrew explains. “That’s especially important during the summer, because we have mostly cool-season grasses. We make sure we don’t overgraze.”

Summer pasture monitoring also includes keeping a close watch for broadleaf weeds and brush.

Andrew McCrea, McCrea Family Farms, Maysville, Missouri

“We spray most of our pasture acres every other year with DuraCor herbicide,” Andrew says. “That prevents any major problems. It’s important we continue scouting through the summer to catch any escapes. We can’t afford to lose grazing space and forage production.”

The McCreas have relied on Range & Pasture products from Corteva Agriscience and its legacy companies for more than 30 years. Today, the McCreas count on DuraCor® herbicide for broadleaf weeds and Remedy® or Remedy® Ultra herbicide when woody plants pop up. They continue to increase acres devoted to UltiGraz Pasture Weed & Feed and the convenience and cost savings a single application of weed control and fertilizer brings.

This year, the McCreas devoted more acres to UltiGraz Pasture Weed & Feed and made their own applications, thanks to availability of pasture-dedicated fertilizer carts through their local certified retailer for UltiGraz Pasture Weed & Feed.

“We still grid-sample and adjust fertilizer applications accordingly on most of our grazing acres,” Andrew says. “But this spring, on a few of our most productive pastures, we went with UltiGraz. The higher nitrogen rate should help boost production.”

Other pastures received a spring fertilizer application, and then, after the crops were in the ground, the McCreas sprayed DuraCor® herbicide as part of their biennial weed control program.

Proper fertility and effective weed control give the McCreas peace of mind they’re taking care of the agronomic side and ensuring maximum forage production. Then, during the heat of summer, grazing management becomes the primary focus. The goal: Maintain an adequate, quality forage supply to keep calves gaining at peak levels while stockpiling forage. Most years, the McCreas bring in groups of stockers and keep them on grass throughout their time on the farm. During the winter, they supplement the standing forage with corn silage, dry distillers grain and other byproducts.

“Emphasizing our pastures like we do helps ensure we have the quantity and quality of forage for the gains we need to stay on schedule, with groups of calves moving in and out every five months or so,” Andrew says.

Summer tweaks

Even with a spray program that has most pasture acres receiving a herbicide application every other year, weed escapes occur and brush saplings can encroach on prime grazing space.

“Ground that gets a lot of traffic — especially around feeding sites and water — and thin grass stands are susceptible to weeds,” Andrew says. “We might have to follow up to prevent weed seed production. And we always keep a jug of Remedy herbicide around to spot-spray brush.”

Sometimes a late flush of ragweed warrants cleanup to prevent eye and other health issues when calves nose in among the brittle ragweed stems over the winter.

“I think a lot of producers don’t invest in pasture weed control because it’s not as easy to pencil out like with row crops,” Andrew says. “But, especially in a stocker operation, if we don’t have the grass, we don’t have the pounds to sell.”

Under normal field conditions, DuraCor® is 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. Consult the label for full details. DuraCor is not registered for sale or use in all states. UltiGraz℠ with fertilizer is available for use with specific herbicides in the states of AL, AR, CO, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, KS, KY, LA, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NV, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV and WY. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. State restrictions on the sale and use of Remedy® and Remedy® Ultra apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. Always read and follow label directions.