Planting bedding cover in pasture


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I was curious what everyone would do to plant bedding cover in old pasture ground that is currently short cold season grasses with zero cover.

Assuming a guy didn't want to plant warm season grasses like switchgrass, what type of species would grow up and be great bedding cover for big bucks within a few years?? Central Missouri is where we're located for reference.
I have some experience converting old pasture to bedding and nesting/brooding habitat in both Southeast and Southwest MO.
My farm is in Southeast MO, and I’ve been tackling similar projects the past few years.

Do you mind if I ask a few questions?
1) What is the plant composition of the field currently? For example, Cool season nonnative grass (as most pastures are where I come from).
2) Do you need to, or do you plan to kill off existing vegetation to achieve your goals?
3) What is the soil type and topography like where you’re wanting to do this?
4) What kind of equipment do you have at your disposal?
My apologies. I clearly missed you saying it was cool season grasses. I’ll blame my poor reading skills on my long day at work.
I would assume I need to kill off all the cool season pasture grass. I don't have much equipment other than a sprayer and mid size tractor. This is not flat or steep ground, but more rolling I would call it.
You have all the equipment you need. I’ve tried a few different techniques in different parts of my farm, and they’ve all been successful. My first attempts involved significantly more plantings, primarily shrubs from MDC nursery and some forb/pollinator type seed blends (mostly from RoundStone seed). At my place, deer do seem to love bedding amongst my plum thickets that I planted. Planting is a blast, but it’s also time consuming and incurs an obvious cost.

I had to move away from my farm for work a couple years ago, and time became my limiting factor. My last few field conversions have been much simpler, cheaper, and honestly the results are just as favorable.

I converted two fields that were primarily tall fescue a few years ago. I’ll use them as my example. First, I had them cut and baled in late summer (a neighbor did it for me, he was happy for the free hay). That helped remove a significant bulk of material and prevented the thatch layer you’d get from just mowing. I waited until the fescue rebounded and was about 6-9 inches tall. I sprayed it all with 2qt/acre of glyphosate. That killed about 80% of the fescue. By the third week in September I was seeing the fescue try to come back, maybe 30-40% coverage. So I sprayed it again. That knocked it back to less than 5% coverage. I then just let nature and the seed bank take its course.
By the next spring I had a nice stand of native annuals with a few unwanted invasives. I went through the fields after turkey season and spot sprayed what I didn’t like from my UTV; it only took a couple hours. Later that summer I did another spot spraying, but there were significantly less unwanted plants that time around. Deer not only bedded in the waist high growth that fall, but they had an amazing summer plot with a lot of pokeweed and ragweed to feed on. My dad claims it was our best summer food plot to date.

The following year I had significantly more perennials showing up, and I started getting some early successional woody stems (like blackberry) showing up. The deer again fed in there all summer, and we noticed even more bedding activity that fall.

Year 3 it started to get more sumac species and some small trees like sassafras and some young oaks. The summer food was still abundant, and we saw an increase in buck utilization that fall.

We are going to burn 1/2 of each of those fields in a few weeks of weather conditions allow. The following year we’ll burn the other half. Then we’ll repeat the process again.

I’m no expert, but a lot of guys on here are. I’ve learned a ton reading their stories and advice. I would advocate trying something similar to what I described. If you’re not getting the structure or plant composition that you like, you can always go in and plant some native shrubs like plum, arrowwood vibernum, dogwoods, etc. But you may not need to.
What you get coming in after killing the fescue simply depends on what species you have in your seedbank. This varies a lot from region to region, and even the amount of moisture in the soil and/or elevation can play a role. Even different fields on the same farm can have different species coming out of the seedbank. For instance, you won't see Joe Pye Weed or Swamp Milkweed coming up in anything but low ground with good moisture year-round.

For bedding you obviously want tall species that stand up well through the winter. Generally, the taller species of forbs and grasses will eventually dominate a field (until trees and shrubs start taking over), but that isn't always the case. For instance, a species of grass called Deer Tongue Grass can form a monoculture and completely choke out forb and other grass species. It only gets about 3 or 4 feet high and flattens easily. It would be one of the worst possible native species to come up (no food and no cover value). I've had some of this in spots, and I just spray it with Clethodium. After doing that I generally get a good flush of beneficial annual forbs such as common ragweed or partridge pea pop up in the dead spots.

And then there are the non-native species that can be a problem. A good example is Johnson Grass. It gets tall but flattens easily. It also forms a monoculture and chokes out everything else. I'm thankful to not have it, but I know other people who fight it constantly.

Some of the more desirable tall forbs for bedding cover would be Canada Goldenrod, Ironweed, marestail, Giant Ragweed, etc. The last one mentioned is even a good browse plant in the summer.

Basically, what you are talking about doing can be a great thing. You can get lucky and not have to do much work, or you can end up feeling like it wasn't worth the effort. Personally, I kind of enjoy the work, but I'm a strange person.
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Native made some excellent points. One of the smaller 6 acre fields we’ve worked on is in a creek bottom that remains moist relative to my more upland fields. It was essentially a monoculture of broomsedge with a significant layer of accumulated thatch when I bought the property. Not only are the forb species in that bottom often different, it’s amazing how quickly that field wants to regenerate into a young forest. Woody encroachment seems to happen 2-3x faster in that bottom. We have to burn and spot spray more frequently to meet our goals.

He also mentioned Goldenrod, among other tall forb species. We have 20+ species of goldenrod In Missouri. Depending on where you are in central MO there is a great chance that you’ll have some show up. I typically have 2-4 different species in my fields. Tall, Giant, and Missouri goldenrod all provide good height in my fields in SE MO.

Ironweed is pretty sparse in the seed bank at my farm, but I have a little every year. That being said, it’s highly prevalent on a property I help a friend manage in Southwest MO.