Poor weather conditions have taken a toll on the quality of the state’s hay crop for the second consecutive year, so livestock producers should consider stockpiling bermudagrass or fescue pastures as an alternative for fall and winter grazing. August is the time to get started.
“Hay harvest conditions have been terrible this year and hay quality is low in many cases,” said John Jennings, an extension forages professor at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Last year, many producers relied on a good hay crop of low quality to winter their herds. But the winter was colder and longer than in recent years, so livestock didn’t fare well.”
Jennings explained that many times producers cut hay as late as October and begin feeding with it in November. With stockpiling, producers manage the bermudagrass and fescue for livestock grazing to eliminate the harvest cost and allow cattle to graze the forage through fall and winter.
Stockpiling can provide good quality for producers. The forage quality of stockpiled bermudagrass can be more than 15 percent crude protein in October and November. The forage quality of stockpiled fescue in February is usually higher than that of the hay on hand.
To prepare bermudagrass for stockpiling, Jennings advised producers to clip or graze fields to a 3-inch stubble and fertilize them by mid-August to achieve the best growth potential. Fertilizer can be applied even during hot weather to produce a good forage return, he said.
“The growth potential of stockpiled forage is usually 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of dry matter per acre, so the recommended fertilizer is 50 to 60 pounds per acre of nitrogen to match that yield potential,” Jennings said. “Don’t delay because waiting until September to fertilize for stockpiled bermuda will reduce yield potential by 60 to 80 percent.”
Jennings called stockpiling one of the most consistent forage management practices in the 300 Days of Grazing program, a Division of Agriculture effort to enhance the use of grown forages. Only one out of 150 stockpiled forage demonstrations managed by the division failed to pay a positive return over the cost of feeding hay.
Source: University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service