|Contact your local Extension agent to determine which grasses are best suited for stockpiling. Weather and soil conditions will play a role in how many acres you need to stockpile.
As fall approaches, producers are thinking ahead to what they will feed during winter. With thoughtful management, you can feed your cows a high-quality diet while the snow flies.
Stockpiling is a form of deferred grazing that reduces hay feeding in late fall and early winter, says University of Missouri plant science professor Craig Roberts.
"Pasture is the cheap source of feed. You always want to go back to it, because it's also the best way to put pounds on a calf," he says.
In general, tall fescue pastures are the best choice for stockpiling forages, adds David Davis, superintendent of the University of Missouri's Forage Systems Research Center in Linneus, Mo.
"Fescue holds up best during winter and produces a lot of fall growth, unlike other cool-season grasses," Davis says. "It's really hard to beat on tonnage or quality. Other cool-season grasses can be stockpiled, but you're giving up something on yield."
Fescue is a grass that can really withstand a lot of snow, trampling and wet weather and still retain quality, Roberts adds. In contrast, orchardgrass is best stockpiled when it is grazed before snowfall.
Davis notes that just about any grass can be stockpiled. The difference is how well it will hold up to winter weather. Reed canarygrass, for example, is not a good option to stockpile because cows reject it once frost hits and it goes dormant in the fall.
Warm-season grasses are undesirable because they don't grow much in the fall and their quality deteriorates. Roberts discourages beef producers from stockpiling bluegrass since it is used for horse forage.
Bromegrass can be an option. "It's a cool-season grass, but doesn't have a lot of fall growth," he says.
Rarely, however, do you have a single grass species in a pasture.
"Not all pastures are created equal," Davis says. "You'll have bromegrass, bluegrass, orchardgrass and other cool-season grasses in there, but for stockpile pastures the majority of the grass should be tall fescue. Fescue tends to protect other grasses from winter weather and it is the grass that will do best for stockpile in Missouri."
Pasture management. Pastures should be good stands of fescue, weed-free and grazed or hayed down to 3" to 4" stubble height in order to be good candidates for stockpiling, Davis says. He encourages producers to pick fields with lots of growth potential in order to get the greatest yield in the fall.
- October 2008