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PASTURE WEED - Buttercup. (Image courtesy UAPB)
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – With no green showing in the pasture, few livestock producers are
thinking about weed control, but now is the ideal time to control troublesome pasture
weeds, says Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist
at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Not only are some weeds toxic to cattle, but also weeds adversely affect livestock
operations in many ways. Weeds compete with desirable pasture grasses and legumes
for nutrients. Some are unpalatable; livestock will not eat them so less feed is available
in the pasture, says Dr. Fernandez. Some weeds cause injuries or pain if they have
“Weed control can be an effective way to increase production by improving forage availability,”
says Dr. Fernandez. Mowing, grazing, improving soil fertility and herbicide spraying
are some of the ways to control weeds. Mowing should be done in the boot stage before
flowers emerge. Weeds can flower and set seed very quickly. Once the seeds develop,
mowing just spreads them further into pastures.
Some weeds are both palatable and nutritious early in the growth, and livestock will
readily graze them. To control weeds by grazing, subdivide weedy pastures, and place
a high concentration of animals on one paddock, advises Dr. Fernandez. The animals will eat or trample the weeds. The grass can recover once the animals are
moved to the next paddock. Grazing should not be used to control weeds toxic to livestock,
warns Dr. Fernandez.
PASTURE WEED - Bitter sneezeweed. (Image courtesy UAPB)
Weeds can outcompete more desirable species under conditions of low fertility. Most
of Arkansas’s better pasture grasses and legumes do poorly in acidic soils. Phosphate
and potash levels in Arkansas soils tend to be lower than optimum for many forages.
Adding lime to control soil pH and fertilizing according to soil test results can
give grasses and legumes a chance to outcompete the weeds after an initial round of
another control method.
Some common weeds in Arkansas respond well to late winter/early spring herbicide treatment
including buttercup, the first weed to emerge, wild garlic or wild onion and thistles.
Spraying now for buttercup will prevent pastures from turning yellow with buttercup
flowers this spring. Thistles are best treated in the rosette stage before he flower
stalk begins to grow.
Two common, toxic Arkansas weeds, bitter sneezeweed and woolly croton, are best treated
in May and June, says Dr. Fernandez. Extension publication MP 44 Recommended Chemicals for Weed and Brush Control contains herbicide recommendations for pasture weeds, and your county Extension agent
can help you choose which herbicide is most appropriate for the weeds on your farm.
PASTURE WEED - Wooly croton. (Image courtesy UAPB)
By Carol SandersWriter/editorUAPB School of AgricultureFisheries and Human Sciences(870) 575-7238