November 7, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Kentucky averaged nearly 12 inches of precipitation in September and October - a 107-year record. As a result, many farmers have a lot of high quality forage for livestock going into the winter season.

"We've had a lot of fall growth and it's great feed," said Jimmy Henning, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture forage specialist. "We came out of the dry summer and early fall with thinner cows. This will help put needed weight back on them. If we would've stayed dry like we usually do in October, we would've had low amounts of hay and thin cows."

Although individually, September was the fourth wettest and October the third wettest on record, combined they form the wettest fall in 107 years.

"The fact that two of the top five wettest months occurred back-to-back is unique," said UK agricultural meteorologist Tom Priddy. "It really made for a more extended period of wet weather than we've seen in our lifetime."

Farmers and livestock owners stand to benefit the most from the wet, mild weather. Henning said the forage in pastures now is more nutrient rich than producers are used to at this time of year.

"It's all leaf and it's green which is unique for this time of year," he said. "Much of it is fescue, and fescue this time of year will be nearly 20 percent protein and almost 20 percent sugar by weight, so it winds up being feed that is phenomenonally high in energy too."

Henning said some of the fall forage will be used for haylage but he's really encouraging growers to strip-graze pastures because forage will last much longer. Many producers feed hay for up to six months in dry years and that can get very expensive when a cow consumes 30 pounds of hay each day.

"Hay will be shorter than short this year and if you have to buy it will be expensive," Henning said. "So this is about the best thing that could've happened to us. This has saved a lot of hay that would've had to have been fed up to this point."

Another positive of late forage growth is feeding fewer supplements. Most producers will be able to get by with just feeding a good free-choice mineral supplement if they are grazing the lush fescue in pastures this fall.

Henning said the unique rainfall of September and October provided a much-needed break for those depending on forages.


Jimmy Henning  859-257-3144