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Most acreages with livestock use grass pastures to meet much of the nutrient needs of their
animals. Whether you have horses, calves, sheep, or goats, the better you manage a pasture, the more nutritious grass it will produce.

The first decision to make is to determine if the grassy area will be treated as an exercise lot or managed to get maximum production. If the area is grazed continuously year round by a large number of animals, it should be managed differently than if the grass is allowed to grow up and be allowed a rest
period. Areas heavily grazed will not show much benefit to fertilization. They should be seeded with a grass that can withstand heavy traffic and close grazing. One grass like this is fescue.

If you want maximum production, select a variety of grass that will respond to fertilization. The nutrient that grass uses the most is nitrogen. This nutrient can be supplied by liquid, or granular and organic and inorganic fertilizer. Rates of nitrogen applied should range from 40-80 lbs. per acre depending on fertilizer cost, soil moisture condition, and thickness of the grass stand. Fertilizer should be applied during April to stimulate cool season grass growth and discourage other weeks and grasses that begin growing later in the season.

Seeding of pastures should be done in April or early September to get some growth in the spring before hot weather occurs or frost occurs in the fall.

Weed control is also an important management practice. The key is to clip or spray the invasive weeds when they are small and in the vegetative stage. Once weeds bloom and form a seed head, control is more difficult. Some weeds germinate in early spring and some germinate and begin growth by mid- summer.

A rotational grazing system with 3 or more pastures allows grasses to rest, which allows them to develop leaf surface that catches sunlight, conducts photosynthesis, and builds up root reserves for maximum growth of both roots and leaves. 

By Monte Stauffer, UNL Extension Educator