Preparing pastures for spring

County Agent’s Corner

Though cold and dreary weather outside now might feel like perpetual winter, spring is quickly approaching. With its arrival comes many “spring cleaning” tasks – including preparing pastures. Alabama Extension forage specialist Leanne Dillard shares how to properly prepare spring pastures to ensure success in the coming seasons. Soil preparation

According to Dillard, the first and most important step in preparing pastures for spring is soil testing. “If you have not soil tested in the last year, it is time to once again,” she said.

Adjusting phosphorous and potassium levels in the soil is the next crucial step when test results arrive. By liming and adding these elements as necessary, producers are preparing the soil for the coming season. The soil test report will also include nitrogen requirements for each specific forage crop.

“Apply phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen at the time of planting, soon after, or at the time of spring green-up in case of perennial forages,” Dillard said. Pasture forage

By preparing pastures appropriately in spring, producers are able to reap the benefits of plantings in the fall. To ensure proper growth in the spring, perennial and annual cool-season forages should have been planted from September to November. If these are planted in the spring, very little forage is produced or often fails altogether.

Dillard emphasized timing fertilizer with crop green-up. “If your plants are not growing, they cannot use the fertilizer,” she said. “For tall fescue, that would be late February to March and for cool-season annuals it is typically mid-February, depending on location.” Infrastructure maintenance

Though it can sometimes be a difficult job, maintaining pasture infrastructure is another crucial part of preparation. “Spring is a good time for walking fences and mending any broken portions,” Dillard said. Checking waterers for leaks and making sure the handling facilities work well are also checklist items for pasture preparation. Dragging pastures

Many producers drag pastures to spread accumulated manure. Since the soils in Alabama do not freeze for weeks on end, Dillard said it is not as necessary for cattle pastures in Alabama. “In properly managed cattle pastures, dragging is not necessary,” she said. “When rotated, animals will naturally deposit manure, and this will return to the soil, increasing necessary plant nutrients.”

In horse pastures, however, dragging can sometimes be a necessity, as horses tend to deposit manure in the same location repeatedly. Dragging a horse pasture just prior to spring green-up will evenly distribute nutrients. This can become a good source of fertilizer for the pasture.

For more information on this topic, go to or contact the Blount County Extension Office at 205-274-2129. Upcoming Extension programs

• 2021 Alabama Auxin herbicide trainings will be held virtually at 10 a.m. April 5, April 19, and May 3. Please contact the Extension Office for more details.

• March 30: Are you interested in getting into small scale growing for local markets? If so, join us for this free series to learn the basics you need to get started in growing strawberries. We will feature a special on-site interview with Mike Reeves, retired county agent and professional grower. Also tune in to other presentations on vegetable transplants and hydroponic crops. Offered online.

• Managing Internal Parasites in Sheep and Goats: This free virtual webinar series offers effective best management tools necessary for goat and sheep producers to run a profitable farm operation. The virtual event will be 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. the last Thursday of each month via Zoom and Facebook Live ( AlabamaExtensionAAMU). Admission is free, but registration is required to attend. To register visit or call 256- 372-4983.

March 25: Managing Internal Parasites in Sheep and Goats

April 29: Nutrition and Spring Forage Management

May 27: Dealing with Poisonous Plants in Sheep and Goats

June 24: Vaccination and Common Diseases for Sheep and Goats

• Watermelon and cantaloupe production webinar: We will be discussing the latest in watermelon and cantaloupe production. Pre-registration required. Once registered, a Zoom link will be sent to the participant’s email. Offered online March 30.

• March 31 – ACT: What is it and How do I Prepare? In this workshop, learn about the ACT, how to schedule a test, what to expect on the test, and how to read your score report.

• Alabama 4-H at AAMU is hosting a College Prep Workshop the last Wednesday of every month this semester. Workshops are free to attend and will be conducted online via Zoom. This workshop is best suited for high school students and their parents who are preparing for college.

For information on these or many other upcoming programs, please like our Facebook pages “Blount County Alabama Extension” and “Blount County 4-H.”