Mud Got You Down? Sacrifice My Land?

— Written By Noah Henson and last updated by
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What is a sacrifice area? It is an area where animals are held for a period of time during inclement weather.

This time of year, regardless if you planned to have a sacrifice area or not, I would imagine that where ever you are feeding livestock is now mud. While this is certainly not a pleasant sight, it is something we have to deal with in what seems to be a wet climate. The question now has moved from ways to prevent it to how do we recover from it. Having a plan for the next season is important in any progressive operation.

We have mud, but the good news is that warm weather and a growing season is coming. Below I will give you a few ideas on ways to recover a sacrifice area.

  1. Frost Seed Clover– While this year it seems that frosty days are far and few between, I am confident that we are going to have colder weather. Be prepared and take advantage of these days. Keep a bag of red and white clover seed around and on a frosty morning in February broadcast this seed onto the ground. The freezing and thawing effect will pull this seed into the soil and come spring you will have clover growing in your pasture or hayfield. Clover will add nitrogen to your fields, helps dilute the toxin in K31, and add diversity to your forages. If you are feeding in a pasture I would recommended a white clover, but if you are looking to get a hay field back in shape I would use a red clover.
  1. Spring Oats– The best solution for adding forages quickly. You can expect a 12-15 inch leaf within 45 days of planting. These oats can be used in an area that maybe you had some cool season annuals fail or thin because of the excess moisture or was forced to feed in these areas. Inter-seed spring oats and you can have forages to graze or harvest come late spring.
  1. Crabgrass- Even though for years we have fought crabgrass and thought of it as a negative, I am convinced that cattle graze it as much as fescue in our area. Established varieties of crabgrass certainly have their place in a grazing scenario with not only the nutritional benefits they offer, but also the benefit of having a warm season reseeding annual that can be grazed when fescue is dormant. Crabgrass establishes very well in disturbed areas, so planting in your sacrifice areas is perfect for it. Come spring, take you animals to spring pasture, plant crabgrass where you fed during the winter, then bring them back to graze in the summer.
  1. Inter-seed Perennial Grasses- In areas that are taken abuse during these wet months, there is a chance to thicken them back up with simply inter-seeding perennials back into them. Mid-February to mid-March is a great time to do this to prevent weeds from growing back in these bare areas. Maybe this is a time for you to add some diversity into your fields such as orchard grass or bermudagrass.