Summer Spray Helps Winter Stocking

Something went wrong. Please try again later...
Wyatt Carlton

Every summer, Wyatt Carlton pushes his Florida pastures for the most production he can get for his budget. Grazing stockpiled summer growth is how his cows sustain themselves for most of the year.

Carlton is the designated pasture manager for his family’s 7,500-acre Bull Hammock Ranch and other family holdings around Fort Pierce, Florida. The business includes his parents, Wes and Tracy Carlton; aunt, Mary Anne Carlton Cruse; and grandmother Anne Carlton.

Although land values and technology have changed over the five generations his family has ranched here, weather patterns haven’t. South Florida still has dry springs, moist summers and 

“We get a little bahia growth in the fall and winter, but it’s not enough to keep up with the cows,” Carlton says. “We push grasses in the summertime to get through the winter.”

Hay is extremely rare on Bull Hammock Ranch. Typically, only first-calf heifers see any harvested forage. Carlton feeds those females high-quality baleage from a field of perennial peanuts. Mature cows have to hustle on grass pastures to harvest their own forage.

Most of the Bull Hammock pastures are improved bahiagrass, which thrives through the Florida summer. Other than drought, the biggest impediment to that grass growth is competitive pressure from broadleaf weeds.

“The best tool we have for managing pastures is broadcast spraying,” Carlton says.

Challenges, opportunities

Weed pressure has become worse in the last 10 years, Carlton contends. Hurricanes have moved around a lot of weed seed, and Florida is a magnet for new invasive weed species. For the most part, though, Carlton fights traditional robbers, such as dogfennel and pigweed, in pastures.

Consistent spraying seems to reduce the seedbank in the soil to result in less weed pressure in a pasture. Once that pressure is substantially reduced, he says, it’s a moneymaker on two ends. First, it means he can skip an application — spraying only every second or third year. And then there’s a production payoff.

“In pastures where we’ve sprayed two to three years in a row, we’ve been able to increase stocking rates,” Carlton says. “The cattle business goes up and down, but when we’ve been able to spray, we’ve sprayed,” he says. “And the last few years, we’ve been able to spray. We do as much as we can. We’ve come a long way in five years.”

For Carlton, spraying typically begins as soon as he has adequate moisture in the late spring and runs to almost October. It’s all ground-applied. The end date is when baby calves start arriving. It’s too easy to run over a calf in the dense vegetation, he says.

“We’d like to treat in March and April, but in some years, we won’t have rain then,” Carlton says. “We can have a 40-day dry period in the spring. We’ve hauled water to cattle when windmills wouldn’t keep up.

“You’ve got to have an actively growing plant to benefit from spraying. It’s all about uptake.”

A new tank mix

A couple of years ago Carlton decided to try an application of DuraCor® herbicide early and liked what he saw. As the season went on and dogfennel got bigger, he switched to a tank mix of DuraCor at 16 ounces per acre with PastureGard® HL herbicide at 10 ounces per acre. PastureGard HL is extremely effective on dogfennel.

PastureGard HL, however, has no soil residual activity, but DuraCor does. So the combination controls even big dogfennel and provides several weeks of residual control through the long growing season.

Year-round stocking rates on the Bull Hammock Ranch vary by pasture from roughly 2 to 5 acres per cow-calf pair. With inputs, 2.5 acres per animal unit is most common. Carlton credits pasture aeration for some of that. Done at the right time, it opens the soil to penetration by moisture and fertilizer, he says.

“If we do half a pasture, we can see a difference in the grass. Cows will move to the aerated side,” he says.

As an example of what inputs can do, Carlton points to one of his best pastures. It’s an aerated and fertilized 158 acres of bahiagrass he sprayed with DuraCor and PastureGard HL in late May last year. It was stocked with 85 cows for the year — less than 2 acres per cow. By fall, the pasture was still clean with more than enough grass. Winter wasn’t worrying him.

Under normal field conditions, DuraCor® is nonvolatile. DuraCor has no grazing or haying restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter. Label precautions apply to forage treated with DuraCor and to manure and urine from animals that have consumed treated forage. DuraCor and PastureGard® HL are not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Consult the label for full details. Always read and follow label directions. 


Stay Connected With Us

Connect with Range & Pasture:


Find Your Local R&P Specialist

Range & Pasture Steward Newsletter

Learn about seasonal opportunities, rancher success stories, and management strategies for pastures and rangeland.

Explore Articles

Subscribe to Steward