Iowa State University Extension forage agronomist Steven K. Barnhart describes three practical strategies for maintaining or improving productivity in pastures. The first of these is fertilization. Nitrogen fertilizer, he says, will provide the most immediate benefits of the three strategies, but requires some care and planning to assure cost-effective rates and proper timing.

The next strategy is to introduce new forage species into the existing sod with over-sowing or frost-seeding. The benefits of this method develop more slowly, he says, potentially offering long-term improvements in the pasture. He notes, however, that those benefits can easily disappear with improper management such as overgrazing before the new seedlings are established.

Finally, he says, changing grazing management can provide some of the best long-term benefits. Shifting from continuous grazing to some level of rotational grazing that allows pastures rest and recovery can significantly improve forage production. Some improvements can occur within just a few months, but the greatest benefits could take several years to become apparent. Using the other two strategies, fertilization and over-sowing, along with improved grazing management can provide short- and long-term improvements. Find more information from the Iowa Beef Center at www.iowabeefcenter.org.