What can you do to help make your pastures more productive this spring and summer? Be ready to invest in spraying weeds.

“People see that they have weeds, but they often don’t want to spend the money to spray. But spraying weeds should be looked at as an investment because it helps give better grass production and that translates to improved cattle production,” says Kurt Schentzel, an ag chemical specialist with Performance Ag Services based in Aberdeen, SD.

With that in mind, Schentzel offers these three tips for spraying weeds:

1. Spray early. The best time to spray perennial pasture weeds is at green-up in the spring, says Schentzel. He acknowledges that this is often a busy time for producers finishing up with calving or getting into the field for spring planting, but Schentzel says it’s critical to spray as early as possible.
“When pastures are sprayed later in the spring or early summer the chemical is not as effective at killing the roots of the weed as it is with an early spring spraying,” he says.

2. Don’t overgraze. Along with spraying for weed control, Schentzel emphasizes that proper pasture management is critical for maintaining productive, healthy pastures. He says, “Competition is a free thing that landowners get. If pastures are managed properly, grasses can grow and prevent weeds from establishing. But, if livestock are allowed to graze pastures too short and grasses don’t get time to regrow, then the weeds tend to come in.”

3. Spray again late. Fall is also a good time to spray weeds – especially right before a hard frost. Schentzel says to wait until a light frost occurs so that plants begin gathering and storing nutrients – at this stage, the chemical spray is more effective at killing the plant.

Regarding what products to use, Schentzel says 2,4-D is relatively inexpensive and can be effective if it is used religiously. However, he says products like Grazon, Milestone and Cimarron offer more long lasting control through the growing season to kill both the weed plant and the root. “These products are more expensive, but they give better residual control and will clean up weed problems fairly fast,” says Schentzel.

Schentzel says if you are comparing generic chemicals vs. name brand brand products, the key to determining if they are the same product and will offer the same effectiveness is to look at the active ingredient.

Additionally, Schentzel suggests that landowners visit with an agronomist or chemical retailer who can help tailor weed control strategies to their specific needs.

Schentzel says the bottomline on weed control is this: “You can’t look at it as costing money. It’s an investment that needs to be made each year to ensure healthy pastures and a productive beef herd.”