Planting Ryegrass for Winter Grazing

I am always pleasantly surprised to be reminded that folks really do read the stuff that I write for On Pasture. Sophie Sprague from down around Pensacola, Florida wrote and asked Kathy to forward the message to me about planting ryegrass for her sheep. Folks, this is what On Pasture is all about. When we talk to one another it is almost a sure bet that someone out there will be able to help with your questions. So, Sophie, here goes…I will do my best to be of some help to you.

Soil preparation may be the most important consideration in the whole undertaking. The amount of fertilizer and seeding rate are without question very important, but if the soil becomes all boggy and plugged up the ryegrass can never be used to its potential. And when this happens grazing days are lost and costs go up. We have never used a grain drill we believe that we can do just as well by running over the ground with a disc one time and just lightly opening the surface about an inch or two. We have done this on bahia grass pastures for years and have good summer grass following the ryegrass. Most graziers on small acreage places do not have a tractor large enough to pull a grain drill and to hire it done may be cost prohibitive. We use a 40 horsepower tractor and a 5 foot pickup disc.

Speaking of soil, it would be a good idea to take some soil samples. Fertilizer is too expensive, so knowing what you need means you can put out what is needed to do the job and no more.

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Seeding rates are an area of much discussion, but we have found that if you don’t put the seed out you can’t have grass. We have put out as much as 50 pounds. to the acre when planting just ryegrass. In a mix with clovers and turnips and hairy vetch we will cut back on the ryegrass seed to 35 to 40 pounds. Too much ryegrass is a good management problem to have, so don’t skimp on the seed.

Click to visit On Pasture sponsor Smith Seeds and see some of the varieties of ryegrass available to you.

There are many varieties of ryegrass. Some are more cold tolerant than others. Plant the one that will work in your area. There are almost as many ways to put out the seed as there are varieties, but we have found on smaller plots a PTO (Powered Take-Off) powered seeder works fine. We have used the little sack seeders that you carry and crank on small plots and have seen good results, I have even just thrown the seed out by hand but this does not create a very even stand. On the larger fields we just hire the spreader truck from the Co-Op or rent a spreader cart.

After the seed and fertilizer are put out just cover the seed by dragging a harrow and you are done. Before we built a harrow we would drag an old metal gate and it worked just fine. You get the idea that we are not equipment people, and you would be right, but you can spend as much or as little as you think is necessary and get a good crop of ryegrass.

Now you are ready to plant the ryegrass the next step is managing it to get a good return on your investment, that is a discussion for another day.

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