The 1993 cult classic film “Groundhog Day” follows Phil, the main character, who is stuck reliving the events of one particular day, February 2nd, Groundhog Day. Over and over, he meets the same people, has the same conversations, and goes through the same motions in the same job. Unsatisfied with ‘the norm,’ he eventually decides to make some positive changes, shifting his focus to helping others and bettering himself.
What does that have to do with agriculture? A lot. If we continue doing the same things repeatedly, we keep reaping the same results, or worse. How did you do last year personally, on the farm or in the garden? Forced by circumstances, “feed and fertilizer cost how much last year!?” or driven by the desire for a different outcome, it may be time for a change.
Livestock producers have struggled with high input costs, decreased forage production, atypical weather, and wild markets for the last couple of years. Gearing up for tax season and reviewing production notes, are there places you could make some changes? Something all livestock producers can address is their nutrient and forage production practices.
The first step for improving forage management is submitting a soil test. A soil test analyzes the quantity of nutrients in the soil available for plants and offers fertilizer recommendations for optimal plant performance. I’ll wager you are sacrificing production and wasting money if you are applying (or not applying) fertilizer based on a guess or what you’ve always done. Fertilizer is typically a farmer’s largest annual expense; invest a little time and $15.00 for a soil test analysis before purchasing a single bag of fertilizer.
Next, this is the best time of year to frost-seed Nitrogen-fixing legumes into your pastures and hayfields. Broadcast two pounds of white clover and 4 pounds of red clover per acre. Legumes like clover reduce or negate the need for nitrogen applications, increase yield, dilute the effects of endophyte-infected tall fescue, and improve animal performance through higher-quality forage. Managing mixed pastures with an eye toward legumes takes practice, but it is more than worth it, and you can begin today.
Is change easy? Nope. For example, pastures transitioning from chemical Nitrogen applications to a legume-based system will suffer short-term production loss, but don’t give up! Success requires small incremental steps toward your goal.
While waiting on your neighborhood groundhog’s annual forecast, reflect on 2022. Envision the change you would like to see in 2023 and beyond, and take those first brave steps. Unlike Phil, we don’t get to repeat the same day until we have it all figured out. Plant tomorrow’s success today