Pasture is a piece of land where community of plant species are growing together and producing herbage for feeding ruminant animals. Pasture lands are enclosed tracts of farmland, grazed by domesticated livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep, or swine . The vegetation of tended pasture, forage, consists mainly of grasses, with an interspersion of legumes and other forbs (non-grass herbaceous plants). Providing a sustainable feed for grazing livestock is important to maximise productivity and to ensure producers can meet the year-round demand for quality products. Economic growth of the sheep and cattle industries will depend to a large extent on the establishment and maintenance of pastures. Pasture is a great way to get animals off concrete and can stretch out forage inventories. Pasture is used for pre-breeding age ,pregnant heifers ,early mature dry cows and springing heifers. They would receive a supplemental ration to compliment the pasture. This can be a great strategy for animals with long days in milk and that have excess body condition.
Pasture establishment needs three essential steps to be successful; good soil conditions, a well adapted species, and good weather. The best one to start with is a well-adapted species. Choose to plant a species that is well adapted to the soil pH, the climate conditions and well suited to the intended use and livestock type. Soil conditions is also essential in pasture establishment , improve soil fertility, which means having adequate levels of macro- and micronutrients, soil structure (aeration,etc) and pH, moist seedbed is desired. There are twenty(20) essential elements for good plant growth. Having a soil test done on several random spots on the intended pasture land will help determine what is needed to improve soil fertility.
Requirements For Land Preparation For Pasture
When establishing a pastureland , certain criteria need to be implemented to ensure the long term success and high yield of forages on the pastureland. The purpose of land preparation is to provide the necessary soil conditions which will enhance the successful establishment of the production and improve yield of planted species over years to come.
Reasonably good soil :- because pasture plants are relative shallow rooted compared to most field crops, deep soils of 8 – 15%are suitable , but good Chemical and physical properties are necessary.
Rainfall:- Areas with over 700 – 750mm per annum rainfall.
Slope :- Pastures can be mechanically cultivated in slopes up to 16% if the field is open and free of obstacles
Criteria for land preparation for pasture production
- Site Selection
- Site Preparations
- Land Clearing
- Seedbed Preparation
site selection is the first thing to acquire in pasture production and several criteria must be adhere for good land for pasture.
Soil texture – loamy soils is suitable for planting most pasture species.
Leaching – leached soil indicate the intensity of good drainage
Soil depth -very shallow soils are not suitable because they are highly prone to erosion.
Site preparation and Land clearing
There are several method of clearing methods to eradicate competition for light, water, nutrient and air from productive pasture production.
- Hand clearing methods
- Use of primitive tools e.g axe ,machete
- Use of ringbarking or poisioning
Large-scale mechanized clearing :- it has appeal of Government or large holders because of rapid increase in productivity in relatively short time.
Contract specifications:- large scale contract scheme on contract arrangements with private operators.
Clearing sequence includes :- pulling ;windrowing; before burning; burning ;windrowing after burning; ripping; stick-picking and cultivation.
Construction of erosion control
- Top soil and water conservation is a top priority to prevent soil erosion and washing away of planted seeds during vulnerable establishment period.
- Contour walls to remove exceesive run-off
- Terracing to reduce run-off speed and increase infiltration rate.
- Contour strings of sod-forming grasses to reduce infiltration rate and catch silt.
This is most important as pastures seeds are usually small in size requiring smoother, finer, moist seedbed. A good seed bed should have the following characteristics.
- Ample moisture in the surface of the soil and subsoil.
- The surface soil surface should be reasonably smooth to prevent the seed from being buried too deeply.
- The surface soil should be moderately compacted around the seed to facilitate the transfer of moisture from soil to seed.
- The surface soil should be granular and not too fine or pulverized for this would prevent air and water infiltration into the soil.
- The surface soil should be worked well enough to provide good operating conditions for seedling and machinery.
- The top soil should be as free of weeds and insect pest as possible.
- The soil should be firm beneath the depth at which the seeds are sown to give firm support to the developing seedling and to allow close contact between seedling roots and the soil for nutrient and moisture absorption. The plough layer should be in direct contact with the lower soil layers to ensure uninterrupted upward movement of soil moisture.
Nutrient Requirements For Pasture
Nitrogen plays a major role in plant life processes such as photosynthesis, vegetative growth and the maintenance of genetic identity. This ensures high yield at the end of the season. Nitrogen is freely available to plant availability. The addition of fertilizer nitrogen stimulates the grass component which then suppresses the legumes by increased competition.
Phosphorus also plays a role in processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, vegetative growth, reproduction and maintenance of the genetic identity. It is also associated with cell division, root development and flowering. phosphorus is, for all purposes, not available to plants.
Potassium is found in cell sap and plays a role in the transport of nitrogen in the plant and the promotion of photosynthesis. This nutrient helps to strengthen fibre and has an influence on the opening and closing of the stomata. Potassium is also associated with resistance to drought, cold and the improvement of fruit quality. Potassium is freely available to plants adequately due to the beneficiary effect on nodulation