Weed encroachment can reduce the amount of forage your pastures produce. So it’s important to get the weeds under control and limit their spread.
One of the easiest and most effective methods of controlling weeds in large areas is to mow them before they produce seeds.
So in this article, we take a look at everything you need to know about mowing pastures to control weeds.
Let’s dive in.
Mowing Pasture To Control Weeds
Mowing pasture is an easy and effective way to control many types of weeds. The best time to mow your pasture to control weeds is before they produce seed heads.
Mowing once per month during the summer months in the northern hemisphere (Jun-Aug) prevents most weeds from setting seed and can help control the spread of weeds in the pasture.
Repeated mowing of both annual and perennial weeds reduces their competitiveness in the following ways:
- Mowing weeds down to the same height as the grass prevents them from blocking the sun and inhibiting grass growth.
- Mowing the grass encourages new, thick growth that can outcompete weeds.
- Regular cutting of weeds removes the foliage, preventing the weeds from photosynthesizing and storing energy in the roots. Eventually, the roots exhaust themselves, and the weed dies.
When mowing pasture, avoid cutting the grass too short because new growth is stimulated better when there is more leaf area.
Another problem with cutting grass too severely is that it becomes stressed and vulnerable to pests and diseases.
A good height for mowing cool-season grass in your pasture is 4-inches and 8-inches for warm-season grasses.
Depending on the scale of your weed problem and what you are prioritizing — forage quality or weed control — you might also want to consider the best time for mowing the grass in your pasture.
The best time to cut grass is when it produces seed heads. At this point, grass quality is low as the plant moves from its reproductive stage to its vegetative stage and begins to store carbohydrates in the roots for the winter. Cutting the stem and seed head stimulates the grass to produce new growth, including leaves of high quality for your livestock to graze on.
Depending on the types of weeds growing in your pasture, the best time to cut the grass might not work out to be the best time to cut weeds, but it’s something to consider.
The Advantages Of Mowing Pasture
Repeated mowing helps to control weeds and prevent their spread.
- Repeated mowing helps to control weeds and prevent their spread.
- Mowing is an inexpensive method of weed control.
- Mowing improves the quality of the grass in your pasture, making it more digestible and palatable for your animals.
The Disadvantages Of Mowing Pasture
- Weeds often regrow from their roots after you cut off the top part of the plant. It sometimes takes regular cutting over many growing seasons to get rid of perennial weeds with established root systems.
- Some weeds can still spread, even if you prevent them from producing seeds. Perennial weeds with runners and rhizomes can spread without seeds.
- Mowing forage that has stopped growing stimulates new growth. But repeated mowing to control weeds removes forage and reduces the amount of grazable dry matter that your pasture produces.
- The clippings from mowing can smother forage, creating bare areas susceptible to weed invasion.
Before mowing your pasture, try to identify the common weeds growing. Identifying the types of weeds can help you choose an appropriate method of weed control so you don’t waste time and money.
If the weeds are winter-annuals, there’s no need to do anything as the hot summer temperature will kill the plants.
But if the weeds are perennials that are difficult to control by cutting, you might need to consider a more economical and effective option such as spraying with herbicide.
Equipment For Mowing Pasture
Mowing pasture can be a time-consuming job. Here are the tools that can help you:
A flail mower is a highly effective tool for cutting large areas of grass and weeds. But you’ll need a tractor to tow it behind. It can even clear areas of overgrown, thick weeds with tough stalks.
Using a riding lawn mower or zero turn mower makes cutting weeds and grass a quick and comfortable experience. But they’re not best suited to mowing tall weeds and grass. And it can be hard to find one that mows to your ideal height if you want to leave the grass above 5-inches.
If you fancy mowing your pasture by hand, a scythe is the best tool for the job. Once you get the hang of the technique, you can use a scythe to cut vegetation quickly.
The benefits of using a scythe are that you get knowledge of the type of weeds and where they’re encroaching on your pasture, enabling you to make more effective plans for the future. It also provides you with good exercise.
Other Weed Control Methods
Sometimes mowing isn’t enough to get rid of troublesome pasture weeds such as horsenettle and woolly croton that cause problems for horses, sheep, and cattle. So you might want to try other weed control methods:
Herbicides are very effective, and you can use a sprayer to easily spray them over a large area. Systemic herbicides kill weeds to the root, providing more effective control of perennial weeds than mowing. Selective herbicides kill weeds but not your pasture grass. So then you can time the cutting of your grass in the summer to encourage new growth and improve grass quality.
Pulling weeds by hand or by using a tool can be effective for small numbers of weeds. When done correctly you can remove the root system, preventing weed regrowth. But it’s too time-consuming if your pasture is full of weeds. And it can be difficult to completely remove the root system of well-established perennial weeds, which will regrow from any piece of root left in the soil.