Is It Time to Think about Renovating or Planting a New Pasture or Hay Field? Part 3: Planning to Planting

In Parts I and 2, I covered testing the soil in the field in which you plan to establish a new pasture or plan to do a total renovation and species selection.  Depending on how close you are to planting and whether you will be working the soil or planting using a no-till drill, it’s probably time to recheck soil pH and fertility levels in the field to be planted or renovated.  The final soil test should be taken approximately 6 to 9 months after the earlier limestone application.  This should be enough time for previously applied lime to react with both the active acidity (hydrogen ions in soil solution) and the reserve acidity (hydrogen and aluminum ions on the clay and organic matter cation exchange sites) and the soil pH to be reaching an equilibrium state.  In this way if another smaller application of limestone is needed to move the soil pH slightly higher, the lime can be applied and worked in the soil, assuming some type of tillage for incorporation of the limestone. In no-till situations, the process of adjusting the soil pH takes much longer and should be started as much as two or three years in advance of seeding or renovation  since lime moves downward through the soil at about one inch per year.

Now that the soil fertility requirements have been completed, it’s on to the planning and planting process.  One of the biggest challenges these days, especially if you have a small number of acres in the field, is finding someone with equipment the right size to fit the field and a willingness to do the job in a timely fashion.  Of course even if you’re lucky enough to find the equipment and operator, cost is going to be a critical factor when making the decisions of what parts of the plan are actually doable.  Another factor that has become more of a challenge in recent years is the availability of forage seed of the selected species and variety.  Many forage seed production fields have been converted to row crop production and in some locations restrictions on burning seed production fields have allowed disease issues such as ‘choke’ to reduce forage seed yield potential.

In planning the whole procedure, your time will be a valuable asset.  With high prices, limited seed supplied, and challenges in finding equipment and help to fertilize, lime, control weeds, and plant seeds, the time you take to shop around should pay big benefits.  July and August are the time to do these chores since the fall planting season is right around the corner.

For planting date, forage agronomists often list from mid-August through September as being the time to plant as long as soil moisture is adequate.  Soil moisture for many hay producers and grazers in the state and region really will be at critically low levels for much of August.  This can extend late into September due to the drought and hot weather conditions we usually experience during July and August.  With all our pre-planning and planning activities, the final decision on when to plant and even whether to plant on time will be determined by the weather conditions during August and September.  You may be tempted to plant as soon as the field receives the first rainfall in the planting window but you should keep in mind that if the deeper layers of soil are deficient in moisture the new planting will likely fail if fall turns dry.  Use a shovel or your soil probe to test the soil for moisture at the 6 to 12 inch depth.  If the field hasn’t received enough rainfall to supply this soil depth with at least some water, a new planting will be very much at risk if rain events do not continue from planting until winter dormancy takes hold.  Only you know the amount of risk you are willing to take to establish the new seeding this season and none of us know what the future weather will be.

What if enough rain to supply water to the deeper soil layers doesn’t fall until very late in September?  Certain species, such as low alkaloid reed canary grass, require a specific amount of time between planting and first frost (six weeks minimum for reed canary grass) but almost all species will not only yield less the following year but take a lot more time to reach full establishment if planted late.  Again, the hay producer or grazer must evaluate the amount of risk they are willing to take on when deciding to plant after September.

You should maintain frequent contact with your fertilizer/lime dealer, seed dealer, equipment supplier, and others who will be helping you with the process of planting the new pasture or hay field.  If you will be using equipment provided through the county conservation districts, be sure to get your name on the list as early as possible since many folks may want to seed about the same time when moisture conditions become favorable.

This article was submitted by Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist, University of Delaware.  Dr. Taylor can be reached at

USBGA Offers Discount on Association Transfers and Dual Registrations for the Month of August

Received via email from the United States Boer Goat Association (USBGA)

“We have received a lot of calls recently from people wanting to register their goats with USBGA that are currently registered with other associations. USBGA accepts registrations from ALL associations ALL of the time! To help with the expense of dual registering or transferring your registrations to USBGA we are offering 25% of all Association Transfers/Dual Registrations thru the end of August!

In addition, if you know someone who is interested in USBGA but is not currently a member AND they have animals they want to transfer to us please refer them to us & they will receive 25% off a New Membership as well! (be sure to have them mention this ad and mention that you referred them…we also send out referral coupons to you for recommending our association!)

The process is simple!  All you have to do is fax, email or mail in a copy of the registration certificate from any other association! This special is only good thru the end of August so be sure to spread the word!”

For more information call the USBGA at 866-66-USBGA or email




Free Webinar- Winter Care of Backyard Poultry Flocks

EXtension logoBackyard poultry owners may be interested in participating in this free, timely webinar on September 25th, beginning at 7:00 pm EDT.  Fall is the time to prepare your flocks and coops for the toils of winter. Dr. Brigid McCrea from Delaware State University will cover the activities that are recommended for such preparations.  Whether this is your first  or fortieth flock, take the time to learn about changes to your management and biosecurity routines so that your flock stays happy and healthy all winter long.  For more information click on or to connect to the webinar directly, click

Milk Protection Program

Dairy Margin Protection Program update

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) authorizes the Margin Protection Program for dairy producers (MPP-Dairy). This new voluntary risk management program replaces the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program which expires on September 1, 2014. MPP-Dairy offers protection to dairy producers when the difference (the margin) between the all-milk price and national average feed cost falls below a certain producer selected amount.

Eligible producers may purchase coverage for their dairy operations by paying an annual administrative fee of $100, and a premium as applicable, for higher levels of coverage. Producers in the dairy operation will have to select a desired coverage level ranging from $4.00 to $8.00, in $0.50 increments, and a desired coverage percentage level ranging from 25 to 90 percent, in 5 percent increments. Producers in the dairy operation will also have to decide whether or not to participate in the MPP-Dairy Program or the

Livestock Gross Margin program administered by the Risk Management Agency, but will not be allowed to participate in both. However. FSA is working on a process to allow maximum flexibility for dairy producers to make that decision.

Dairy operations will establish their production history upon initial registration for the MPP- Dairy program. Production history will be established for a dairy operation based on the highest annual milk production marketed during the full calendar years of 2011, 2012, or 20 13. New dairy operations in operation for less than a year will either have their production established on their available full months marketed milk production extrapolated to a yearly amount or their estimated actual marketed milk production based on the actual herd size of the dairy operation relative to the national rolling herd average.

Verification of the production records used to establish the production history for the dairy operation will be required. Payments under the program will be triggered when margins fall below their producer selected levels.

The regulations for MPP-Dairy are still being developed. Please watch for additional information about this program as it becomes available. 

The following schedule may be used for your planning purposes:

  • Now… Producers should obtain milk marketings for calendar years 2011, 2012, and 2013.
  • Sept 2014… Decision Tool will be made available to help make coverage level decisions.
  • Fall 2014… When announced by FSA, enroll in 2014 and/or 2015 MPP-Dairy program.