February 15, 2006 | By: Carol Lea Spence

An effective livestock grazing system allows farmers to have more animals per acre, lower feed costs and ultimately put more money into their pockets. Helping Kentucky farmers manage an effective grazing system is the goal behind University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s Master Grazing Education Program.

Good grazing practices are a matter of sound economics, according to Keenan Turner, one of the coordinators.

"What we’re trying to do is reduce the number of days farmers have to feed hay," Turner said. "We’ve learned that any day that you can graze and not have to feed hay, it’s more economical.”

Grazing versus hay can result in a savings to the farmer of at least 21 cents per head per day, Turner said.

Donna Amaral-Phillips, Extension dairy nutritionist and associate professor, believes improving grazing practices can have a big impact in a state with more than 1.34 million head of adult beef and dairy cattle and significant numbers of goats and sheep.

"With just beef and dairy cattle alone, by increasing utilization (of forage materials) by 15 percent, we could carry an additional half million cattle in the state, resulting in $276 million more in gross revenue in the sale of cattle and milk alone," she said.

Beginning as early as March 9 in some areas, the Master Grazing Education Program, comprised of six two-and-a-half-hour sessions, will be available in eight areas of the state. The first two sessions will be devoted to plant considerations, such as traditional and nontraditional forages, managing tall fescue endophyte, and managing growth in grass and legume pastures. These will be followed by two sessions on animal needs, including discussions on nutritional requirements, parasite control and animal disorders on pasture. The fifth meeting will address fencing, water and how to lay out a grazing system.

Once summer weather arrives, participants will spend the final session on a farm where a rotational grazing system is practiced. All meetings will take place in the evening. Amaral-Phillips said the program covers not only the individual pieces of a productive system but also how those pieces fit together.

"You have to have crops, you have to manage your animals, you have to have fence to keep them in and you have to move them around so those animals can adequately use that forage," she said. "And how you move them changes by the time of the year, based on the growth of that grass and the animals’ needs. Because animals’ needs change."

To find out if the Master Grazer Educational Program is offered in your area, contact your local agriculture Extension agent.



Donna Amaral-Phillips, (859) 257-7542