Utilizing cool-season forages can extend the grazing season and reduce the need for stored feed, Lemus says. There are several reasons this is beneficial:

• It is better for the environment. Feeding hay or stored materials in a barn or other enclosed are concentrates animals and the accumulated manure results in an expense for removal. Feeding them in pastures often results in hoof damage to the land.

• Weather is less a concern. Animals can graze almost without regard to weather.

• Higher quality forage leads to better animal performance. The quality of young, vegetative pasture growth and even leafy autumn residue is usually considerably higher than that of hay.

• It requires less labor than to provide animals with stored feed and to remove manure from enclosed areas.

• It reduces expenses. Stored feed is almost always two to three times more expensive per animal or per day than pasture. In livestock budgets, stored feed typically accounts for 40-50 percent or more of the cost of production, and many producer’s records show it to be even higher.

“In general, the less hay needed, the more cost-efficient the operation,” Lemus says. “Clearly extending the grazing season and reducing the need for stored feed is highly desirable.

On the plots tour, Ph.D. graduate student Brett Rushing, noted “there is a lot of interest in planting native grasses, both for forage production and wildlife habitat. We’re looking at orchardgrass and fescue varieties in comparison to native ryegrasses.

“There are seven ryegrass species that are native to the Southeast. They are somewhat tough to establish in the first year, but we’re hoping that in subsequent years they can provide both forage and wildlife habitat. So far, they have not yielded as well as the fescues and orchardgrass.”

David Lang, MSU associate professor of plant and soil sciences, said a number of annual, biennial, and perennial clover species are being evaluated for planting into warm season grasses.

“White clover is a good choice for planting into bermudagrass, and can last for five to 10 years,” he notes. “We’re also evaluating some arrowleaf clovers that were developed in Mississippi.”

In addition to their forage value, planting clovers into warm season grasses can help provide nitrogen for the grasses, he says.