Now is a good time to consider upcoming fall field work.
You may have a good idea for how you want your pastures and hayground to look and work, but you might not have a solid plan on how to go about getting there. Additionally, you might be apprehensive about investing in pasture or hay ground improvement. Consider the information below on one way to approach field work.
The following advice was put together to address the statement “I can’t afford to fertilize all my fields; it costs too much!” and the action of not fertilizing or spreading a little bit here and there and not getting the proper amounts applied.
Therefore, the current focus of the Livestock & Forages Program, called Best Fields First, is a method of helping producers apply time and other resources to the improvement of forage production in an agronomic-economic way and to fields that have the best potential to respond to inputs.
The first thing that should be done is to identify the differences in soil types of your fields. You can do this by going on the NRCS Web Soil Survey site at websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov, identifying the area you are interested in (Area of Interest of AOI), and outlining your fields. The program will give you an aerial photograph with soil types outlined and numbered. You can select a report that lists the number of acres of the total field along with the acres of each soil type.
Some people find this website easy to use, others do not. Sometimes the computer is at fault. Either way, if you would like to access information for your own fields (and I hope you do) and need help, please contact me and we can work together on it.
On the Web Soil Survey you can also access a description and properties of the soils (composition, depth, drainage class, slope, etc.) and use them in choosing what to plant, how best to divide the land into management units, or how to use the land for other purposes. Use these to make sure conditions for forage growth (plant-site compatibility, soil fertility, grazing management, etc.) are optimized for agronomic, economic forage production.
Don’t stress on all the work you are faced with. Rather, work smart by starting with a small section of the land that has the most potential to respond to your inputs. The website’s soil data explorer tab leads to information on the potential productivity of each soil type for pasture carrying capacity in animal unit months (AUM), tons of hay per acre, or other crops under irrigation or dry-land (rain-fed) systems. Use it to help you identify your “best fields” and work with that one first; then work on other fields as need, finances, and time allow.
The reward for all this hard work, done in a smart way, is that forage can be produced economically by comparing current and potential yields, knowing what inputs are needed to close any gaps, and applying science-based management.
For example, a survey of producers in western Oregon found that soil testing and fertilizing according to the OSU Pasture Fertilizer Guide saved an average of $30.25 per acre per year in resources (lower fertilizer inputs) or improved forage production (quality and/or yield).
Other management practices proven to work in Oregon can be obtained through OSU Extension Service. We are here for you.