August 11, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

Beef producers should be stockpiling forages now for use this winter. This practice will allow for a longer grazing season.

Extending the number of days when grazed forages can be the primary source of nutrition can enable producers to be lower-cost and more efficient in producing beef, said Garry Lacefield, forages specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

“Research has shown that utilizing stockpiled tall fescue can reduce the days required for hay feeding by more than 50 percent and lower wintering costs by more than $50 per cow,” he said.

Grazing represents the cheapest way to feed ruminants on a cost per pound basis, he said. Stored feed usually is the single largest item in livestock budgets and cost or amount of stored feed is usually the best predictor of potential profitability in most beef cattle operations.

Stockpiling is the practice of producing forage in late summer or early fall for use in late fall and winter. Cool season grasses such as tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are the best grass for stockpiling because they retain their green color and forage quality later into the winter. They also are somewhat resistant to low temperatures and have the capability of forming good sod.

Early August is the time to begin stockpiling for later use, Lacefield said. Cattle should be removed from these areas and any needed fertilizer added to allow the grass time to accumulate growth.

Producers should soil test to determine phosphorus, potassium and lime needs. Nitrogen should be topdressed in early August at a rate of 40 to 60 pounds per acre for bluegrass and 40 to 80 pounds per acre for tall fescue.

With the recent rains much of the state has experienced, moisture should be adequate for good growth, Lacefield said. Tall fescue can produce two tons of dry matter from mid-August to late November.

After frost, alfalfa-grass and clover-grass fields should be grazed first, then grass fields.

The quality of tall fescue – crude protein and digestibility – is better during the fall and winter than any other time of the year, Lacefield said.

Light stocking of these fields will cause a lot of waste due to trampling. To make the most efficient use of the high quality feed in stockpiled areas, install a temporary electric fence across the field dividing it so that the area to be grazed has a source of water and minerals. Once the animals have grazed this area, move the fence to open up a new strip. Repeat this system until the entire field is grazed.

Stockpiled grass is an excellent choice for fall-calving cows. It can be used after calving and during the breeding season when their nutritional needs are greatest, Lacefield said. Spring-calving cows may benefit most from grazing stockpiled grasses if they are in thin body condition in the fall. They can regain body condition while grazing and be in better shape going into winter.

Overall, Lacefield said, stockpiling is a good way to extend the grazing season, provide a good return of high quality forage for each pound of nitrogen applied and provides the beef cow herd an ideal place to spend the winter and calf.

Lacefield also added that stockpiled fields are ideal sites for adding clover next February or March. The addition of clover to the tall fescue sod that has been grazed heavily during the winter can increase overall yield and quality next year, he said.

For more information on stockpiling grasses, contact a local office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.

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Contact: 

Editor: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Garry Lacefield 270-365-7541 ext. 202