Productive winter pasture can be a valuable asset, but can also be expensive to establish and grow. Following are five items that will help your winter pasture start out right.

First, determine what kind of winter pasture is best suited to your location. This article will only address wheat and cereal rye, our primary winter pasture species, although other options include oats, triticale, annual ryegrass, brome grasses, tall fescue and cool-season legumes. Wheat is better adapted to heavier soils and lasts longer in the spring, while cereal rye is better adapted to lighter soils and provides earlier grazing in the fall. Select the forage or forage mixture that fits your location and meets your forage demands.

Second, collect good quality soil samples and have them analyzed at a reputable agricultural laboratory. A good quality soil sample will be representative of the field, collected to the depth recommended by the lab, be a composite of at least 15 soil cores and represent no more than 40 acres. Phosphorus, potassium and lime requirements can only be determined by soil analysis. If these are deficient or if soil pH is below 5.5, production potential and response to nitrogen fertilizer will be reduced. Phosphorus and potassium should be applied prior to or near planting while lime should be applied well before planting to allow it time to react.

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