High natural gas prices, a decrease in the number of fertilizer facilities and increased demand worldwide have caused nitrogen fertilizer prices to go through the roof. That means hay growers and livestock producers will have to make changes to stay profitable, according to Texas A&M University experts.

“With increasing fertilizer and energy costs, we have to make adjustments to our livestock and pasture management,” explains Gerald Evers, AgriLife Research forage management scientist. “We are going to have to find where our fertilizer dollar will bring back the largest return. We will be talking (more) about soil fertility and soil fertilizer recommendations as well as about soil pH, which is very critical to get good use of our fertilizer.”

He tells producers to be prepared to live with lower forage production and reduced stocking rates. Cattle producers have not seen price increases for their end products and are struggling to pay for high-priced fertilizer for pastures and forage crops. With nitrogen selling for around 70 cents/lb, some fertility program adjustments must be made. He recommends lengthening the grazing season five to six weeks by overseeding with annual ryegrass and clovers in fall.

Stockpiling can also help lengthen the grazing season. “When we would begin to feed hay, instead we graze the standing hay crop,” Evers says. He also advocates making the most of the recycled nutrients. “Over 90% of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potash that’s in the forage a cow eats is actually excreted back on the soil.”

Evers will be a featured speaker at an April 18 workshop on surviving high fertilizer and fuel costs, to be held at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton. Registration costs $20 and will include a lunch. Contact Charles Long at 903-834-6191, or email c-long@tamu.edu. Contact Evers at 903-834-6191.