Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
Cool-season grasses show dramatic responses to nitrogen fertilizer applications. Benefits include stimulating growth, improving yields, and increasing protein content. Applying nitrogen in mid-February to mid-April can promote early grass growth which can increase overall forage production. This earlier grass growth allows livestock to start grazing earlier, can reduce use of stored feed, and can lower winter feeding costs. This early grass growth can also help control spring weeds. Early nitrogen applications can increase overall pasture production each year.
To use a nitrogen application to promote early grass growth, it is important to do so in the ideal time frame and to apply accurate amounts.It is suggested that 30 to 50 lbs. of nitrogen per acre be applied between February 15 and March 15.This can often allow for grazing to start two weeks earlier than pastures that do not receive early nitrogen applications. It is important to allow this early growth to become established before grazing. It is recommended that plants are 6 to 8 inches before grazing.Grazing too early can reduce yields for the remainder of the grazing season.Another application of approximately 40-50 lbs N/acre in late spring (May 1-15) after a close grazing or hay cut can stimulate growth into the summer months when these grasses may suffer from summer slump.Early applications of nitrogen this February or March can help promote early grass growth and cut down on winter feeding costs.