Pasture Weed Management

— Written By Glenn Detweiler and last updated by Judy Moore
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Catawba Valley Cattlemen’s Association
(meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month)
This month’s meeting is on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Catawba County office building.

Meeting Agenda

6 p.m. – Supper is served.
6:45 p.m. – Business meeting – Mr. Andrew Rector, president.
7 p.m. – Educational Program: Summer Pasture Weed Management.
Speaker: Mr. Boyd Glenn, Manager of Nutrient Ag Solutions, Statesville (org. Crop Production Services).
8 p.m. – Meeting adjourned.


  • Scholarship forms are out to all High Schools in the area. We have 10 applicants. Five will be interviewed on May 3, and 5 will be interviewed just before our meeting on May 14.
  • Make plans now to attend the Annual Motor & Tractor Show on May 17 and 18 at the Hickory American Legion Fairground. Admission is 5.00. Free for 12 and under. Lawnmower pull Fri at 7 and Tractor pull Sat. at 4. Visit the Cattle Barn where 4-H will be getting calves used to the barn and learning how to show at a Sat. training workshop.

Pasture Weed Management 

  1. Why control weeds? First, a weed is a plant growing in a place where you do not want it to grow. In pastures and hayfields, it is impossible to have a “pure” stand of grass; there will always be plants that volunteer from the seed bank or from neighboring fields. Therefore, it is important to control weeds to an acceptable level because (1) they can reduce yield and quality of desired plant species and (2) interfere with hay drying. Weeds also (3) have the potential to cause injury or death to livestock if the weed plants are toxic.
  2. What are the steps to consider in controlling them? Step 1. ID weeds. This is the most important step, in weed control. This will allow you to determine if they need to be controlled. Take time to walk through your fields and scout at least 10 to 15 sites in a field. Identify the plants and seedlings at each site. It is usually easier to do this between seasons and about a week or two after cutting or grazing. Be sure to keep a record of what weeds you have in each field and when you start seeing them. This will help you determine whether your control program is working. Some weeds may take several years to get under control. Sources of help to ID weeds:

Step 2. Prevent spread of weeds. Many weeds are easily spread. Prevention is any action you take to keep weeds from getting established in your pasture. Many weeds are spread by seeds that are dispersed by hay bales, plants that reach maturity (don’t let that happen), livestock movements, equipment (particularly mowing equipment), wind, water, and wildlife. Another way of introducing weed seed is through planting grass seed contaminated with other seeds; therefore, use certified seed!

Step 3. Cultural control.
a. Manage for your specific grass. TAKE SOIL TESTS for the ENTIRE PASTURE. Cultural control increases the competitiveness of forage. Provide for proper fertilization by using soil test to determine pH, fertility, and recommended fertility needs for the species of grass you are growing. Then you can take advantage of additional cultural methods to help manage weeds. Remember that there is now a $4 charge per sample received by the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) Soils Lab between late November and March 31…be sure to take/submit your soil samples by mid-November to avoid this fee. One sample is usually good for up to 5 acres if the entire area has the same soil types, same crop, and has had the same practices done to it (fertilizing/liming/etc.). A single sample will consist of at least 12 cores or sub-samples combined together (composite sample). Collect the cores in a plastic bucket, mix, and fill your sample box with this composite sample. Complete the sample form and mail/ship to the NCDA&CS Soils Lab. Make the recommended corrections based on soil test results.

  1. Grazing management in pastures can help control weeds. Rotational grazing helps to control weeds by giving desired plants the opportunity to rest and grow undisturbed before being grazed again. In rotational grazing systems, animals will often consume weeds they would avoid in continuous grazing systems.
  2. Mechanical control, primarily mowing, will help control some weeds especially broadleaf weeds. Negative aspects are cost of mowing (fuel and time), it may not help with larger weeds, and it can spread weed seeds and encourage greater infestation. If there is no chemical control labeled for a particular weed or if weeds are too mature, mowing may be your only choice. Always mow at the proper height! In some cases burning, when safe and permitted, may control some weeds in forages.

Step 4. Biological control is the use of natural systems to suppress weeds. As a newer approach to weed management, there is much still to be learned. This is generally a longer term approach. It includes the use of natural agents such as plants, herbivores, or insects to suppress weeds. Biological control is usually not complete and may take several years to become sufficiently effective

Step 5. Chemical Control. Considerations for choosing an herbicide include: (1) Correct identification of weed. (2) Type of pasture/forage. (3) Animal species. (4) Post-application restrictions. (5) Carryover.

There are many decisions involved with the use of herbicides, beginning with the correct ID of the weeds present, familiarity with the weed type (grass or broadleaf, annual or biennial or perennial, cool season or warm season), followed by choice of herbicide and determining the correct timing and rate of application. Spot-spraying specific weeds may be the most effective and least costly.

For some herbicides there are restrictions for grazing animals. There may also be haying restrictions. Always read and follow label directions and pay attention to any grazing and haying restrictions. The label is the law! Many farmers and home gardeners have reported damage to vegetable and flower crops after applying horse or livestock manure, compost, hay, or grass clippings to the soil. The damage was caused by residues from herbicide products that belonging to the class of herbicides known as pyridine carboxylic acids. These herbicides can remain active for extended periods of time even after passing through an animal’s digestive tract, to be found in urine, manure, and composting! The label on each of these herbicides contains detailed instructions, including animal feeding restrictions and safe use of manure or crop residues. When used as directed, these herbicides should not cause problems on non-target plants. Follow label directions listed under Carryover Injury to vegetable and flower crops.

Proper timing of herbicide application cannot be overemphasized. The best way to control weeds post-emergence with herbicides is when the weeds have germinated, are young, and are actively growing. This time varies according to whether the weeds are cool season or warm season. As the name implies, warm-season weeds are those that grow during the summer months. The best time to control warm-season weeds with herbicides, therefore, is from April to mid-July for most species. Cool-season weeds grow best in late fall through early spring. The best time to control cool season weeds with herbicides is from October through December. Also possibly from February through April.

Our May educational program will be provided by Boyd Glenn from Nutrient Ag Solutions. He will discuss in more detail Step 5, Chemical Controls for Warm-Season Pasture Management.

All are welcome to attend meetings and learn more about Weed Management. If you have any questions call the Lincoln County Livestock Agent, Glenn Detweiler, at 704-736-8461 or my cell: 405-219-1902.