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Weeds are gone... Now What?

Karen Jackson
University of Tennessee
Extension Agent

Well, you got goats to clean up your pastures of pesky weeds such as pigweed, cockle bur, thistles, honeysuckle, brambles, and so on. After a few years, all of these plants seem to be under control; and your goats are competing with your cattle for grass. They also seem to be picking up more parasites because they are now grazing closer to the ground. So what do you plant next to provide the goats with their nutrient needs and keep them at their peak condition?
First of all, you will need to look at your legume base in your pasture. Goats like to eat alfalfa, red clover, lespedezas, birdsfoot trefoil; and vetch. These forages will provide some quality protein; many will fix nitrogen in your pastures for grasses. Their TDN values are also fairly high.
Next you want to look at what grasses you would want to plant with your legumes. Grasses for goats should be of the broader leaf variety and less stems. Goats will eat orchard grass, reed canary grass, fescue, and rye for cool season grasses in spring and fall.
For summer pastures they will. do fairly well on native grasses such as broom sedge; but you can plant Bermuda, sorghum, sudan grass, Bahiagrass, and millet.
If you would like to have earlier grazing, goats will also eat small grains such as wheat and rye.
When you are looking at forages to plant, consider the following:
Do I want forage as close to year-round as I can get?
Do I want to use this forage for hay as well as grazing, or am I going to buy in hay?
How are my slopes for planting some of this forage?
Is my soil capable of producing this forage?
These questions and more will be answered in "Planning a Forage plan for your Farm" and" The Importance of Soils on Your Farm."
Forages on your farm should match your soil type, landscape type, and animals you are grazing. If you are grazing goats and don't have plenty of browse, planting from the above listing should give you quality forage for your animals. If you have sheep, you might want to lean more on the grasses, and lessen some of the legumes. Sheep prefer clover, whereas goats would prefer lespedezas.
For the control of parasites, make sure your forage is above 8 inches while grazing and also give a resting break of 6 months or longer on pastures to let parasite larva die down. If you graze a pasture in early spring and it grows up, but hasn't had a long resting break, cut hay from it in later spring. This will reduce the amount of larva on the pasture so it can be used for fall.

Good luck with your pastures and forage bases!

This article first appeared in Volume 1, Issue 2, of the Small Ruminant Newsletter published by Karen Jackson, UT Extension Agent, P.O. Box 100, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464. You should be able to contact your local Extention Office for the same services and additional information.

"The University of Tennessee, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and County Government Cooperating. The Agricultural Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability, or veteran status and is an Equal Opportunity employer."


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