Stockpiling Forages to Extend Grazing Season

Article Source: Ray Smith, UK plant and soil sciences professor

Good pasture management can help extend the grazing season further into the fall and early winter. Take advantage of good growing conditions to obtain high-quality pasture for late fall and early winter grazing. Stockpiling helps broaden the pasture season for the cow herd, reduces feed and labor costs by lowering the amount of hay needed and provides an ideal location for the beef cow herd to winter and calve.

     It’s easy to begin to stockpile. Simply take cattle off pastures in late summer, apply nitrogen fertilizer and allow grass to accumulate growth through late fall.  Then, put cattle on the pasture one section at a time until they’ve finished grazing the whole field.

     Take soil samples for analyses to determine pasture requirements for phosphorus, potassium and lime. You’ll need this information to renovate with clover in the spring.

     Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are the best grasses to stockpile in Kentucky. Both retain green color and forage quality late into winter, are somewhat resistant to low temperatures and form a good sod. Tall fescue produces more fall and winter growth than Kentucky bluegrass.

     Nitrogen and moisture are critical to successfully stockpiling grasses.

     Apply nitrogen in mid-August. Topdress at the rate of 40 to 60 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre for Kentucky bluegrass. Use 40 to 100 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre on tall fescue.

     Numerous studies show wise fertilizer use and timing results in high yields during fall and early winter. Tall fescue crude protein and digestibility are better during fall and early winter than at any other time of the year.

     Yields can be very good when water is available during the stockpiling period. Tall fescue can produce two tons of dry matter up to late November. With adequate water, producers can achieve 25 pounds of dry matter for each pound of nitrogen used.

     After frost, let cattle graze grass-legume fields quickly before plants deteriorate. Then, put animals on the stockpiled grass fields. For the most efficient use of stockpiled fields, establish a strip grazing system by using a temporary electric fence to section off areas of the field. The first grazing area should have water and mineral sources. When animals have grazed this area, move the fence to open a new strip. Repeat this process until the entire field has been grazed.

     Stockpiled grass is an excellent choice for fall-calving cows because it can be used to meet high nutritional needs after calving and during the breeding season. Grazing stockpiled grasses may offer the most benefit to spring-calving cows in thin body condition during the fall.  Growing, weaned cattle can be grazed on stockpiled fescue. Using stockpiled grasses helps lower feed costs when backgrounding cattle.

For more information about pasture management and other topics, contact the (COUNTY NAME) Cooperative Extension Service.


Posted on August 3, 2023, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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