Typically, cool-season pasture growth is sufficient in spring, so early fertilization isn’t necessary. However, if overgrazed last fall or heavily trampled through winter, adding 50 to 60 pounds of nitrogen (N) may help boost early forage growth, allowing those damaged acres additional time to recover prior to grazing. Research from University of Wisconsin suggests 1 pound of N applied in early May can result in an additional 25 pounds of forage (dry matter).

Lundy erika
Extension and Outreach Beef Specialist / Iowa State University

Feeding or sacrifice areas may require more attention than other areas of the pasture. Depending on the severity of damage, some areas may be ready to introduce new seed directly, while other areas may need removal of waste followed by some light tillage prior to broadcasting or interseeding.

Companion forage crops such as oats or wheat can be used to thicken existing stands and aid in protecting bare soil, reduce weed pressure and provide additional forage early summer. Proper seeding rates are important to minimize competition with existing pasture grass species.

If adding additional forages into an existing seeding, soil samples should be taken to ensure pH and key nutrients such as N, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are of desired levels. If P and K are insufficient, plant response to N will be hindered. Legume-mix pastures require higher soil pH.

With any new seedling, adequate rest prior to grazing is required in order to allow a successful long-term establishment. Temporary fencing may be necessarily to limit access to new seeded areas.


If consistently utilizing the same area as a sacrifice or winter feeding area, it may make more sense to establish a forage rotation, knowing the area will most likely be torn up and reseeded each year. This might include planting a warm-season annual species in late May through June followed by cool-season small-grain species that will overwinter planted in September. Many of the warm-season species can tolerate grazing two or three times throughout the summer and into the fall if managed correctly, allowing other pasture acres a recovery period.  end mark

Erika Lundy
  • Erika Lundy

  • Extension Beef Program Specialist
  • Iowa Beef Center - Iowa State University
  • Email Erika Lundy