Flooded pastures are a mess. After water recedes, what needs to be done so recovery can occur?
First of all, be safe. Who knows what might have been left behind. Then, before doing any recovery efforts, alert local FSA and NRCS offices that you experienced this problem and discuss what assistance they may be able to offer. Do this first! You might be ineligible for assistance if you do work before receiving authorization.
Then, after water recedes and soils firm up, remove debris and repair fences and water sources. Be sure to have water sources tested for nitrates and contaminants. Especially test any surface water like ponds or remaining standing water from the flood.
Next, evaluate sediment levels. Pasture plants may have a tough time emerging through any more than two or three inches of sediment so expect poor stands any place where you have thick deposits. Remove thick deposits if possible.
Erosion may not be a big problem in many areas. However, make any repairs or apply other erosion control measures as needed. Also check for any chemical contamination. While it’s unlikely due to dilution by all the flood water, specific sites may be affected, especially if chemical containers were part of the debris.
Don’t even consider grazing until all the previous steps have been taken. Once pastures dry out, allow plants extra time and growth before initiating grazing. And when animals do graze, be sure to leave taller stubble than usual to both keep plants healthy and to minimize animal consumption of any flood contaminants remaining on surface soil.
It’s a lot of work to recover flooded pastures. It can be done if you follow the right steps.