When people think of weeds, most think of the annoying dandelions that crop up in yards everywhere. However, anyone who owns pasture land knows that weeds just aren’t annoying in a pasture—they are detrimental to grazing. Many of those weeds, known as “noxious weeds” are plants that are determined by state Departments of Agriculture to be harmful to agriculture and/or the environment. Generally they are non-native and may cause land to become unfit for agriculture, livestock, wildlife or other beneficial uses. There are 32 state-listed noxious weeds, and counties can list additional species that are problematic in their local areas.
Problem weeds tend to be regional, so it’s difficult to list every single invasive weed that pops up in your pasture in an article. The best way to identify regional weeds is to contact your county Extension agent. They will not only be able to help you identify a weed, but give you advice on ways to eradicate it. The pertinent recommendation is to kill the weeds before an infestation begins. It becomes extremely difficult to eradicate weeds once they are well-established. When weeds get to that stage, all you can do is attempt to reduce and contain populations. If you can spot the weeds when they first invade an area, and then aggressively manage them through hand pulling, digging, or herbicide applications, you can save yourself time and money in the future.
Weeds tend to thrive in dry weather, whereas grass does not. This means there will be an influx of weeds in a drought, so a pasture owner needs to be especially diligent when the weather turns unusually hot and dry. Depending on the type of weed and the environmental conditions, a particular weed may be bad in one area but not necessarily in another. This can vary from year to year. The most important thing to keep in mind is early detection of the weed and timely eradication. Keep in mind that it’s not only your horses that benefit from weed eradication. Wildlife often depends on open land for grazing, and that very well may be your pasture. Keeping it from becoming a sea of weeds means even wildlife will benefit.
Remember to be cognizant of how weeds are spread—on vehicles, on the legs of wildlife, and even seeds that have attached to you when you’re walking through a pasture. If you realize you really are traipsing through a weed patch, or driving your car through it, it would be wise to clean the undercarriage of your vehicle and toss the pants in the laundry before heading off to another field.
Again, your county or area Extension agent should be able to point you in the right direction and provide helpful information on managing weeds before they get the best of your pasture.