For farmers with expiring CRP contracts, converting those acres back to pasture may be tempting. Bruce Anderson, Extension forage specialist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has some advice on proper preparation.
“The fastest and most effective way to stimulate warm-season grass stands to thicken and also to control cedar trees is with prescribed burning in the spring,” he says.
That said, contact your local NRCS and Extension offices for advice on safe and legal prescribed burns, Anderson says. Old growth can also be removed by haying, he adds.
“This can be challenging, however, especially if the terrain is rough, the amount of dead material is great, pocket gophers have built many mounds, or many small trees have invaded your grassland,” he says. “In addition, feeding this hay to livestock will require both protein and energy supplements.”
Anderson prefers another technique to break down old growth and open stands up to induce thickening, which is high-density winter grazing. Graze on a few acres at a time to trample dead litter and open up soil for new seedlings and tillers, he says.
“Move to a fresh area each week until you’ve beaten down all your CRP acres,” he says. “You can get a similar result by using CRP as a calving pasture. You’ll get the trampling, nutrient recycling and excellent bedding all at the same time.”