Even before summer ends, cattlemen should be thinking about winter grazing, said Mark Keaton, Baxter County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
“Tall fescue works very well as fall stockpiled forage for winter grazing. It’s often overlooked by many livestock producers as one of the most economical ways of wintering livestock.”
Stockpiling is a technique in which all the mature summer growth is cut and left in the pasture. September is the month to initiate stockpiling in Arkansas.
“Once the summer growth is cut, growers apply fertilizer and with the addition of fall rain, what comes up is fresh, green, tender high-quality grass,” said Tom Troxel, associate director for animal science for the U of A Division of Agriculture.
“That new growth is allowed to grow and stockpiles itself in the pastures,” he said. “In December, when you’d normally feed hay, you’d let cattle strip graze in the stockpiled pastures, moving them every two or three days.”
Troxel said stockpiling demonstrations conducted by John Jennings, Arkansas Extension forage specialist, saved $20 to $25 per head on winter food costs.
“We used stockpiling during our ‘300 Days of Grazing’ project at the Livestock and Forestry Station at Batesville and only had to feed hay 18 days last winter,” he said.
Tall fescue is cheaper to feed than hay and generally will be less expensive than winter annuals. That’s not all: tall fescue has a major advantage over other cool-season grasses in its ability for late summer and fall vegetative growth to be stockpiled for deferred grazing in the late fall and winter.
September is a good month to initiate stockpiling. It is estimated the maximum per acre yield for stockpiling is achieved with about 75 days of growth in early fall.
Keaton said applying 50 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre — or 150 to 175 pounds ammonium nitrate — at the beginning of the stockpiling period usually is a cost-effective practice. If soil moisture is favorable, use the higher rate. Apply phosphate and potash, along with the nitrogen, as a mixed fertilizer, if soil test recommendations call for a complete fertilizer.
For more information about stockpiling or 300 Days of Grazing, contact your county Extension office, or visit http://www.aragriculture.org/forage_pasture/grazing_program/default.htm or http://batesvillestation.uark.edu/.