One pass, more grass

Mar 06, 2023


Hampshire cattleman Paul Whiteside is all about efficiency on his Maury County cow-calf operation.

“I like to get things done quickly but thoroughly,” says Whiteside, who raises around 300 calves annually, and keeps some 30-40 heifers. “If I can make one trip versus two and get the same result — no matter what I’m doing — that’s a good thing.”

In 2017, when staff from United Farm and Home Cooperative (UFHC) approached him about the possibility of combining fertilizer and herbicide applications to some of his 1,800 owned and rented pasture and hay acres, he decided to give the new concept a closer look.

“Oh, I was interested in learning more, because, especially during the spring months, time becomes very valuable,” says Whiteside, a longtime UFHC member whose commercial herd is composed of Santa Gertrudis, Charolais, Hereford crosses, and Angus. “The ability to control broadleaf weeds on pasture and hay ground while, at the same time, applying the necessary nutrients is a big deal. Even in the best of times, it’s a challenge to get both of those applications done.”

The new concept turned out to be UltiGrazSM Pasture Weed and Feed, a concept designed and implemented by Indiana-based agriscience company Corteva that involves spraying concentrated residual herbicide on dry fertilizer granules during the blending process, and then spreading as normal, thus removing one traditional step in a cattle producer’s hectic schedule.

Dayton Scott, agronomy sales manager for UFHC, says UltiGrazSM was cleared for use in Tennessee in 2016 and UFHC was the first Co-op in the state to put the system into action.

“To become a licensed applicator took some effort,” says Scott. “We had to have a dedicated blender, buggies, trucks, and tenders, but we could see the value in the system so we moved forward. Over the past seven years, we’ve really seen UltiGrazSM take off in our area. Ninety percent of the time, if someone tries it, their acreage will increase the following year.”

Scott explains that the process requires a 200-pound minimum spread rate, and that the herbicide — in Whiteside’s case, DuraCor® — is labeled for all soil nutrient products.

“We use it with pelleted lime, ammonium nitrate, urea, potash, whatever,” says Scott. “After the fertilizer enters the blender, we determine the amount of herbicide that is needed. We inject it into the blender and blend for at least 10 minutes. Once done, it goes into the spreader truck, tender truck, or fertilizer buggy and is immediately off to the field where the herbicide is spread and will be activated by the next rainfall.”

DuraCor® controls a wide spectrum of broadleaf weeds, including pasture buttercup, buckhorn plantain, cocklebur, and others.

“It just depends on what time you apply and what your target species are,” Scott says. “The process is equally effective in the fall for controlling Thanksgiving thistles, buttercup, and chickweed.”

Rachel Walker, Corteva range and pasture specialist, adds that the combined effect of removing weed competition while fertilizing grass provides multiple advantages for the animal.

“Based on university data, we know that if we treat a pasture only with herbicide, every pound of weed matter that is removed will, on average, be replaced by at least a pound and a half of grass,” says Walker. “By using the UltiGrazSM system of not only removing the potentially toxic weeds, but also fertilizing, we’re now replacing that 1.5 pounds with four to seven pounds of exactly what the cow wants — grass. It is equally effective for hay ground and produces wonderfully clean hay that doesn’t spread more weeds.”

Whiteside says that he was immediately impressed with the results of the system upon his initial application.

“The first year, we tried it out on 200-300 acres and were very well pleased — it outperformed my expectations,” says the cattleman, who works the farm with his sons, Weston and Kirk, 24 and 22 respectively. “We’ve increased our acreage almost every year. It really cleans up the ground well, and I’m happy with the hay we were getting, too. It costs so much to put up forage these days, so it’s great to know that you’re going to the barn with 100-percent hay and zero-percent weeds.”

He says the ability to place the herbicide exactly where it needs to go is another big advantage.

“This is pretty hilly terrain out here, and it can be aggravating to try getting across it with a traditional sprayer,” he says. “You have to be concerned with herbicide drift, too. But with the UltiGrazSM system, that herbicide only goes where the dry fertilizer lands, and you’ve got full control over that.”

There are currently some 27 Co-op locations in Tennessee that are certified UltiGrazSM dealers/applicators. To find out if the system is available in your area, contact the agronomy and pasture specialist at your local Co-op.


 

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