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Question on fertilizing hay meadows

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Faster horses

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We have people we respect tell us to fertilize our grass hay fields with straight nitrogen. In SW Mt on our grass hay ground we used a blend of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash. Mr. FH cut his cousin's grass hayfield last summer and it yielded great!! Cousin used straight nitrogen. What we have found using straight nitrogen, the grass gets really tall and it will get rank if left too long. We want thicker, not taller. So the quandary is, which should we use?

One ranch store that sells fertilizer says "straight nitrogen" another says "use the blend" so they were no help in deciding.
Fertilizer is really expensive now!!

Thanks for the replies.
 

Evans

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Get a soil sample done.
Price of product and the amount ( if any) of rainfall you get can make you a winner or loser.
Around here they want you to buy a year ahead and then they always offer my big neighbouring outfits a way better deal than me which annoys me so I seed lots of legumes instead.
Even with rain the price I get offered for N doesn't pencil out for cow hay. Maybe it would for small squares and team roper or horse guys.
Depends a lot on how old your grass stand is. A younger stand will produce way better with N than an older sod bound run out stand.
Loose your shirt with no rain.
What kind of grass do you have?
 

webfoot

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Soil test and if not a history of nutrients applied. Phosphorous (P) is mainly used in the roots of grass so very little is removed with hay. Potassium (K) will stay where it is until the plants take it up. That is the one reason history can be helpful. Nitrogen is very mobile and can leave through different ways. It is mostly used in the above ground portion of the plant. It is also very essential in producing protein.

Thicker as opposed to taller probably has to do with management and species than it does with nutrients in the soil. Making the grass tiller will make it thicker. A quick dirty explanation is cutting at earlier stage of growth will cause the plant to tiller. There is obviously more to it than that. This is where species and history really come into play.
 

Faster horses

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Get a soil sample done.
Price of product and the amount ( if any) of rainfall you get can make you a winner or loser.
Around here they want you to buy a year ahead and then they always offer my big neighbouring outfits a way better deal than me which annoys me so I seed lots of legumes instead.
Even with rain the price I get offered for N doesn't pencil out for cow hay. Maybe it would for small squares and team roper or horse guys.
Depends a lot on how old your grass stand is. A younger stand will produce way better with N than an older sod bound run out stand.
Loose your shirt with no rain.
What kind of grass do you have?
We will irrigate with a side roll sprinkler, gravity fed water. It's a pretty sweet deal.
Thanks for the reminder of getting a soil sample. Should have done that before now. Currently, t's pretty wet in the fields. It is a mixture of different types of grasses.
I know, nice problem to have.
We sell small square bales to horse people. Have the same customers every year. Last year hay was short and we didn't have enough to sell to everyone.
Our soil type is clay....but it grows grass fine. That's one reason we didn't want to farm it up. We don't have farming equipment either.
 

Faster horses

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Soil test and if not a history of nutrients applied. Phosphorous (P) is mainly used in the roots of grass so very little is removed with hay. Potassium (K) will stay where it is until the plants take it up. That is the one reason history can be helpful. Nitrogen is very mobile and can leave through different ways. It is mostly used in the above ground portion of the plant. It is also very essential in producing protein.

Thicker as opposed to taller probably has to do with management and species than it does with nutrients in the soil. Making the grass tiller will make it thicker. A quick dirty explanation is cutting at earlier stage of growth will cause the plant to tiller. There is obviously more to it than that. This is where species and history really come into play.
The Co-op in town doesn't seem to have any history on this place. Maybe no one ever fertilized it...who knows?
It is an old stand and mixture of different grasses. Like I told Evan, we have clay soil even this close to the Big Horn mountains. Things grow pretty well considering....it's Wyoming.

We like the KISS system. Keep It Simple, Stupid. 🤣
 

Faster horses

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If your spraying on or broadcasting you might as well just use N.
Phos won't move down to the roots unless knifed it.
There is a liquid https://www.agroliquid.com/.
Interesting. Thanks. Wow. I did not know this!! We will be using their spreader.
I don't think we have access to liquid fertilizer.
I know nothing, I'm just the messenger.
So you are saying not to use Phos because it won't move down to the roots????
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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Is this the same pasture you were considering overseeding? Is there any slope to the pasture? The slope on a clay soil unworked field will have a bearing on whether fertilizing (even with all nitrogen) will be cost-effective. Granular fertilizer can wash down to low spots before dissolving. The slower absorption rate of clay as opposed to say the sandy loam around here is a factor that needs consideration with today's high fertilizer prices.

Also to consider is testing your water. It might surprise you how high it may be in some elements that would change how you fertilize. Cutting early as Webfoot suggested is a good way to thicken it up. The problem could be the yield of the early cutting doesn't pay for the expense of having it cut and baled.
 

webfoot

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Grass hay removes about 40 pounds of N per ton of hay. Around 30 pounds of K and 7 pounds of P. If hay is being taken off and no nutrients added you are just mining everything out of the soil. You said it gets irrigated with a wheel line so rain to wash it in is not an issue. You also said your yield was off last year. That is a good sign that nutrients are getting short. The grass is a living thing. It has to be fed. You wouldn't not feed your cows and expect them to preform.
Phosphorous is a positively charged ion. Clay is negatively charged. So any P will move down into the soil (although slowly) until it finds unoccupied clay where it will attach itself.
 

Faster horses

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Grass hay removes about 40 pounds of N per ton of hay. Around 30 pounds of K and 7 pounds of P. If hay is being taken off and no nutrients added you are just mining everything out of the soil. You said it gets irrigated with a wheel line so rain to wash it in is not an issue. You also said your yield was off last year. That is a good sign that nutrients are getting short. The grass is a living thing. It has to be fed. You wouldn't not feed your cows and expect them to preform.
Phosphorous is a positively charged ion. Clay is negatively charged. So any P will move down into the soil (although slowly) until it finds unoccupied clay where it will attach itself.
So what is your recommendation?? This is all so interesting. I know in pasture situations "it takes grass to make grass."
Hay was short everywhere around here last year, except it seems, on our cousins ground where he fertilized with straight nitrogen. He got a bumper crop. Mr. FH put it up for him. It was amazing. His field is flat where ours is rolling and one field has a slope for sure. It's not steep like it would wash......I don't think.

Thanks for all the replies everyone. Still trying to decide.
 

Faster horses

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Is this the same pasture you were considering overseeding? Is there any slope to the pasture? The slope on a clay soil unworked field will have a bearing on whether fertilizing (even with all nitrogen) will be cost-effective. Granular fertilizer can wash down to low spots before dissolving. The slower absorption rate of clay as opposed to say the sandy loam around here is a factor that needs consideration with today's high fertilizer prices.

Also to consider is testing your water. It might surprise you how high it may be in some elements that would change how you fertilize. Cutting early as Webfoot suggested is a good way to thicken it up. The problem could be the yield of the early cutting doesn't pay for the expense of having it cut and baled.
Yes it is. There is a slope especially on the west field, but I don't think it is enough to wash, or it hasn't yet.
I will see about testing the water. It comes from a reservoir in the mountains and lots of folks around here use it.
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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The water should be not an issue if from a reservoir. Webfoot is right you need to fertilize and also right you need to have your soil tested. While good results might be obtained with just nitrogen better results might be obtained with a triple blend, but that blend depends on your soil's need. It is too bad you don't have a county agent. Also, do others with good results harrow their hayfields either before or after fertilizing?

The thing with a hayfield is that the natural process has been interrupted when you cut the hay. You don't have animals eating the grass and leaving manure and some grass left to fertilize and reseed the field for the next season. I still think a light plowing, harrowing, chiseling, discing, raking, or whatever to work up a few inches of topsoil is well worth the expense. If this hayfield has never been reseeded, consider that when you hay you have disturbed the natural process of reseeding and you are depending solely on the roots and whatever blows in which is usually weeds or undesirable grass. A good example of declining mountain pastures is overgrazing where natural reseeding is not happening. Even with all the extra manure, the grass will decline over the years.

A good example is our bodies need a certain ratio of protein, carbs, and fats to function their best. A heavy meat eater might need to add more carbs, where a nonmeat eater needs to pay attention to proteins. Maybe both need to cut back on fats. The same with plants needing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (potash). Your hayfield is no doubt depleted of all these, but what ratios you need to add back requires a soil test. Nitrogen just like protein may show more immediate and impressive results, but plants need a balance just like our bodies for long-lasting results and health.
 
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webfoot

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Before I retired I was a Certified Crop Adviser. I did 400-500 soil tests a year and gave recommendatiosn based on those test results. I also made some recommendations just based on what I could see in a field. Having neither of those to go on I will guess that you should have significant results with 75-100 pounds of actual N per acre. If you use a blend, use one with a 3-1-2 ratio or as close to that as possible. Example 21-7-14. Use that blend at a rate calculated to give about that 75 pounds of N. I wouldn't use one of those blends that are equal across the board like 16-16-16. Or a common old blend 10-20-20 which is too high on P and too low on N.
Also a soil test should tell you what the soil pH is. That can have a significant effect on the availability of nutrients in the soil. A low pH and you can have lots of nutrients in the soil but they are locked up and not available to the plants.
 

webfoot

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I wouldn't worry about testing the water. Water coming from a reservoir in the mountains would very rarely have anything of significance in it. Well water is where you can get things you want or don't want.
 

Faster horses

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Before I retired I was a Certified Crop Adviser. I did 400-500 soil tests a year and gave recommendatiosn based on those test results. I also made some recommendations just based on what I could see in a field. Having neither of those to go on I will guess that you should have significant results with 75-100 pounds of actual N per acre. If you use a blend, use one with a 3-1-2 ratio or as close to that as possible. Example 21-7-14. Use that blend at a rate calculated to give about that 75 pounds of N. I wouldn't use one of those blends that are equal across the board like 16-16-16. Or a common old blend 10-20-20 which is too high on P and too low on N.
Also a soil test should tell you what the soil pH is. That can have a significant effect on the availability of nutrients in the soil. A low pH and you can have lots of nutrients in the soil but they are locked up and not available to the plants.
I will try and get soil samples. We've done that other places, but among other things, I forgot we did that.
Appreciate the advice WF and MC and BMR. I'm printing it out to share with Mr. FH.
 

Faster horses

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I found my quotes that each Co-op advised for grass hay. They both recommend different formulas.
We have to get what they have on hand, can't get a custom blend because we aren't a big enough customer (I think--
anyway neither offered a custom blend).

70-10-10. That is what cousin used last year. 184# to the acre. Granulated, goes on with a spreader. $623/ton.
OR
37-12-0. 200# acre. $435/ton. On a 25 acre field that would come to $1000. Same application. Granulated,
and with a spreader.
 

leanin' H

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I just sent in two soil samples to Utah State university. They test all kinds of stuff for $30 a sample. We weigh calves and track our cattle with records. May as well measure our soil health too. I’d bet even a backwoods, 2nd rate university like U of Wyo would test your dirt 😂😂😂
(I only said that to see if I can draw Jody out) 🤠
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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I found my quotes that each Co-op advised for grass hay. They both recommend different formulas.
We have to get what they have on hand, can't get a custom blend because we aren't a big enough customer (I think--
anyway neither offered a custom blend).

70-10-10. That is what cousin used last year. 184# to the acre. Granulated, goes on with a spreader. $623/ton.
OR
37-12-0. 200# acre. $435/ton. On a 25 acre field that would come to $1000. Same application. Granulated,
and with a spreader.
Another consideration is that most of the nitrogen you apply will be depleted in 60 days. Instead of one big hit of nitrogen like the 70-10-10 maybe the 37-12-0 might be a better idea applied now and again in 60 days. It would help leave your pasture in better shape for winter. How many cutting do you usually get?
 

Faster horses

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Another consideration is that most of the nitrogen you apply will be depleted in 60 days. Instead of one big hit of nitrogen like the 70-10-10 maybe the 37-12-0 might be a better idea applied now and again in 60 days. It would help leave your pasture in better shape for winter. How many cutting do you usually get?
We just get one cutting and are glad to get that. 😊 60 days would be right at haying time, so not sure that would work. We know that cutting it early has the best nutrients. We can usually water after we cut the hay so we get regrowth and we don't pasture it. We were leaning toward the 37-12-0. I'll get busy and find where we can get soil samples. It's wet in the fields now so will have to wait for them to dry out. Thanks!!
I just sent in two soil samples to Utah State university. They test all kinds of stuff for $30 a sample. We weigh calves and track our cattle with records. May as well measure our soil health too. I’d bet even a backwoods, 2nd rate university like U of Wyo would test your dirt 😂😂😂
(I only said that to see if I can draw Jody out) 🤠
We have Sheridan Community College nearby. I will check to see if they could do it. Thanks for the input!
 

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