Prairie for Hay and Wildlife
Six Points for Better Prairie Hay
- Cut hay prairies in late June to early July to 3- to 4-inch stubble.
- Control weeds and brush by proper haying time and by burning in late spring (about April 15) two years in succession out of every five years.
- Fertilize with 30 to 40 pounds of N/ac. about mid-May and only in conjunction with burning. Weigh fertilizer costs against anticipated value of increased forage produced.
- Never graze until at least November and leave at least a 4-inch stubble. If possible, avoid winter grazing.
- Rotate haying for improved wildlife nesting cover.
- Rotate haying with grazing.
Six Points for Better Prairie Wildlife Habitat
- Rotate haying so that some portion of the meadow is rested each year. This portion may be from 10 to 50 percent as the owner prefers. The rested portion will often produce up to a ton more of forage the year after resting to compensate for production lost the year of rest. The previous year's growth will usually have settled below the 3- to 4-inch cutting height by early July so that little old growth is picked up in the new hay. This technique is especially valuable for restoring abused prairies.
- Burn the hayed portion and leave the rested area for nesting.
- Burn a week to 10 days earlier than for optimum forage production.
- Leave all regrowth following haying for roosting and nesting cover.
- Avoid all broadleaf herbicides except for spot treatment.
- Leave scattered clumps of sumac and dogwood for a mix of shrub and grass cover. These areas are heavily used by prairie chicken, quail broods and other prairie wildlife.