Prepare Now For Fall And Winter Forages

Here’s a short write up I contributed to the local Conservation District newsletter this month. It’s just a brief overview of forage management in Arkansas but thought I would share anyways. Maybe it will give you an idea of production methods in our region. Post any questions you have in the comments and I’ll try to answer some of them in a Fun Fact Friday post.

High Input Costs. It is on the mind of every business owner, livestock or forage producer, and landowner. Winter-feeding of livestock can account for a large portion of these costs. According to the 300 Days of Grazing program from University of Arkansas Extension, late summer is the time to start planning for stockpiled forages for Fall and Winter grazing, in turn reducing the need for hay feeding during these months.

Two practices are important to increasing the number of grazing days for livestock: rotational grazing and identifying forages present and their needs. A rotational grazing program can be as simple as rotating livestock to new pastures every few weeks, or as complex as “mob-grazing” that includes multiple moves each day. Producers need to choose the best grazing program for their operation. Stockpiling forages is an important aspect of rotational grazing and proper stockpiling can allow forage availability to extend beyond the growing season.

It is important to identify prominent perennial forages in our area. For much of Southern Arkansas perennial warm season forages include Bermuda, Bahia, and Dallis grasses. For successful late-season stockpiling, clean summer growth (by grazing or cutting forage growth) by August 1, apply 50-60 pounds of Nitrogen in early- to mid-August and defer grazing until 6 to 8 inches of growth accumulate. These grasses are heat and drought tolerant and can provide a beneficial source for grazing from mid-October through December.

Winter perennials for our area include fescue grass and legumes. Cool season annuals also provide a quality forage source for winter grazing. For successful Fall-season stockpiling of forages, clean forage growth by September 1, apply 50-60 pounds of Nitrogen in early September, and defer grazing until 6 to 8 inches of growth or mid-December. These forages provide quality sources of forage for winter grazing with minimal supplementation. Remember it is important to perform soil tests to identify any nutrient needs prior to application of fertilizers and forage production should be measured to calculate stocking rates.

There are multiple sources for information on forage management available through public organizations. For more information on the 300 Days of Grazing Program contact your local extension office or visit the web page.

If you actually made it this far, leave a comment, question, or complaint, and I’ll try to use it for my Fun Fact Friday post.

8 Comments

  1. Great info, Ryan. Do you ever see negative impacts on your cattle from fescue grass? If so, how do you manage that? My dad struggled with it in southwest Iowa – we had one pasture that was heavy on the fescue, and lameness was always an issue with the cows in that pasture.

    1. Erica, it sounds like what you are referring to is what is called fescue foot, which is essentially another form of fescue toxicosis. Though fescue toxicity is mainly a problem during the summer months, fescue foot seems to appear more often in cold weather in thin cattle grazing stockpiled forage. You can check out this extension publication from OK State for more info: http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1982/ANSI-3357.pdf

  2. Good brief of preparing for a sustainable forage base.

    IMHO fertilizer costs (and other interdependent costs/prices) are creating an unsustainable economic model for the “grass farmer” AKA cattle rancher/stockman.

    N pricing today (locally) based on the recommendations you make (and I agree with those) result in a cost of ~ $35/a.

    Extending the supplemental fertilizing programs to ensure the proper grass growth and nutrition values, for standing forage grasses and for harvested grass can create a cost per acre annually of about $80-$90.

    And without the right rain at the right time, no matter what the rancher does the desired results are not produced.

    That translates to a lot of beef.

    If you have the silver bullet for this then do tell!

    1. Thank you for the insight. Did you count in labor costs and equipment depreciation for putting up more hay vs allowing cattle to graze longer? N application isn’t necessary if ample pasture is available and allowed to accumulate organic matter over the course of the year. We are in a dry year and are still in good shape with ample forages in the middle of summer. And in this area most forages are introduced, improved, not native grasses as are found farther west.

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