March 2012, Early Spring

A warm winter followed with record high temperatures in March, finds me in the fields earlier than ever.

I fed round bales of hay in a feeder to my fall-calving cows on a field which was corn last year and will be oats and new hay seeding this year.  I moved the feeder every time I fed a new bale so the manure would be spread across the field, pictured below.

The cows had to walk across a hay field to get to water.  Any time the ground wasn’t frozen resulted in damage from the cows’ hooves.

I dragged the damaged areas with a chain harrow pictured above.  I also spread some oats on the worst areas, using the silver seeder located on the back of the tractor, pictured above.  The oats will give some ground cover and forage.

I also fertilized last week.  I put 100 lbs of gypsum and 100 lbs of ammonium sulfate on every acre.  Gypsum supplies Calcium and Sulfur, while ammonium sulfate supplies Nitrogen and Sulfur.

I decided to not add any Phosphorous or Potassium.  My soil tests showed high levels of Phosphorous in the soil.  My forage tests showed high levels of Potassium in the hay.  These two elements, along with Nitrogen are considered the primary macro-nutrients.  Another reason I decided not to fertilize with Potassium is “luxury consumption.”  If potassium is readily available, plants will suck up more than they need.  This is one of the reasons I prefer to fertilize with Potassium in the fall.

Secondary macro-nutrients include Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur.  My forage tests were lower in Calcium than I liked.  So I decided to add gypsum which is 22% Calcium.  I could have added  lime, but that would raise the pH of the soil, which is already high at 7.4.

My soil is high in Magnesium because the rock underlying our soil is dolomitic limestone, which is high in Magnesium.

Needed Sulfur was supplied from the polluted atmosphere in acid rain for many years.  Now that the air is getting cleaner, there is less Sulfur available to plants, and plants deficient in Sulfur are being seen.  Gypsum is 17.5 % Sulfur, and Ammonium Sulfate is 24% Sulfur.

I didn’t add any of the micro-nutrients.  I plan on soil testing in late summer and fertilizing in the fall if my budget allows.

3 Responses to March 2012, Early Spring

  1. The air is getting cleaner? That’s good to hear, I hadn’t heard that. Getting clean all over?

  2. Miles Allen says:

    My neighbor across the road has a herd of Angus cattle that he raises his own hay for. Here in east Texas we have a lot of chicken operations, so he has them spread truckloads of chicken manure on his pastures. Works like a charm. Some seriously green pasture that makes great round bales. Only drawback is the smell before the rain waters it in. Can’t say what he gives for the manure. Those Angus bulls are feisty, that’s for sure. They bellow a lot. Hard times come, hey, Angus IS tasty…

  3. wsblue says:

    Thanks for the posts and the pictures; always interesting and I learn a lot too.

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