Seeding pastures with grasses specifically designed for horses, cattle, Llamas and Alpacas has become a large part of my business in the last few years. There are two primary means of seed application.
The Broadcast spreader as seen at left, simply broadcasts the seed or fertilizer over the ground after the ground has been properly prepared. The seed is then broadcast at a predetermined ratio per acre. This is typically determined by the type of seed and how dense the customer wants the grass field as well as the current cost of the seed itself. As noticed in the picture the seed is being rolled and packed into the soil, followed by dragging a Chain Harrow to lightly cover the seed. This method takes a bit more work than the mechanical seeder but produces good results if done properly. A calm day is an important factor so seed isn't taken away by the winds.
Establishing a healthy pasture can be a costly process but the outcome can be well worth it when trying to control weeds, feed livestock, producing hay or just having a healthy pasture. A pasture with a good grass base doesn't happen over night...actually not even after the first year normally. It can take up to 2-3 years to see the results you want when envisioning that "perfect" pasture and up to 5 years for one that can be considered well established. You must consider the fact that the grass seed will be competing with any existing weeds, and millions of weed seeds are already dormant in the ground and just waiting for some sunlight to blossom. For this reason you should consider killing off any weeds prior to seeding. A growing number of people do not want to apply herbicides so that creates a problem since there's not many other (cost effective) methods of getting rid of them. So....in this case you mow the weeds down as low as possible to cut them at the stem, cultivate the ground by plowing it over, disking it up, harrowing it, and then roll it to pack it back down slightly to remove the ruts created from the tractor tires and other implements. Then the seed is applied at a heavier than average rate (usually 10%-15% more) in hopes of outnumbering the weeds. The average application rate is 25lbs per acre when broadcasting and 15lbs - 25lbs when drilling. The grass will normally germinate and come up before the weeds which gives it a head start on occupying the space. But still you can potentially plan on overseeding again in the fall and/or spring to get ahead and to try staying ahead of the weeds. The process of overseeding for the second application (if needed or desired) does not require complete cultivation as did the initial seeding. If broadcasting, it normally only requires loosening the top layer of soil by dragging a spike harrow, broadcasting the seed and then dragging a chain harrow to cover the seed. Drilling requires no ground work.
Pasture Development is a muti-step process. With proper planning and preparation a majority of fields can have the same outcome as this field shown at right. Several steps should be taken to increase your pastures chance of success as listed below.
1. Soil Sample Testing : A simple test to collect several samples of soil from different depths and locations throughout the area to be planted. These samples are sent to a lab for testing to determine the level certain nutrients in your soil. Click Soil Test 1 and Soil Test 2 to see examples of two fields on the same property located 100' apart. Notice the difference in results and recommended fertilizer requirements. In some instance a custom fertilizer blend for your specific needs can be purchase for a lower price than a generic blend.
2. Weed Control: Eliminating or controlling existing weeds, especially noxious weeds is critical to establishing a healthy new pasture. Several methods are available to suit most needs. (1) Chemical Control through application of Herbicides. (2) Mechanical Control such a Mowing, Tillage, Cultivating, Hand Pulling, etc. (3) biological Control through the introductionof certain insects that are natural enemies of targeted weeds. (4) Cultural Control such as planting desirable vegetation, fertilization and good grazing practices. More detailed information can be obtained on these practices by going to the FYI or Helpful Links pages.
3. Plowing is important to turn the top 4" to 6" of soil over to bury existing vegetation and expose the more fertile soil for planting seed.
4. Disking the plowed soil is required to break up the rows of exposed soil into a managable form. This breaks up the large rows/clumps and allows the soil to settle down. If planting a crop one could end at this point but planting grasses require firmer soil so the next step is detrimental to grass seed germination.
5. Rolling/Firming: Rolling the soft soil to compress it to a firm (not compacted) state is the last and critical step prior to applying the seed. Because the weight of the tractor leaves tire tracks which are inherently slightly deeper than the leveled field, I drag a harrow behind the roller until the entire field is as smooth as possible. The harrow keeps the top layer lose for seeding once the field is to my satisfaction. Once the field has met my standards then the seed is applied with a broadcast spreader followed by one last rolling and rake harrow to cover the seed.
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The second and most preferred method of seeding is done with a Seed Drill as seen in the picture at upper right. The Drill is designed to cut a trough in the soil at a set depth, with the seed dropping into the soil between the disks followed by spring tensioned wheels to roll and firm the soil back over the seed. The drill is a more controlled method of seeding and it can be done without having to go through the long process of preparing the ground such as broadcasting depending on ground conditions and fertility. If the ground hasn't been maintained for several years it highly likely it will have minimal nutrients and the grass will stuggle to develop. It may still require plowing to turn the soil over to expose the more nutrient enriched soil approximately 6"-8" below.
I provide a choice of two Dryland Pasture Mixes. These mixes, as well as any mix available can vary slighly from year to year based upon seed production for each year or previous year. I use only mixes from two prominant local seed producers to ensure quality seed at a fair price as well as to ensure the seeds are best suited for the local area. A custom mix can always be ordered based on customer needs or desire. I however, always recommend applying the recoomended mix and ratio provided by the seed producer...They are the experts. Listed below are the two mixes showing content and percentage of seed types in the mix. These mixes have been established for high yield pasture establishment, livestock forage and hay production.
% Pure Seed
% Pure Seed
NOTE: Both Dryland Pasture Grass seed mixes shown above list the averages. Seed type and percentage can change slightly from mix to mix.
To gain more indepth information on each Seed Type simply click on the Seed Type name to open a linnk to a PDF document. You will need Adobe PDF Reader to open this document.
John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
Psalm 95:6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice,