The cost of cattle production is rising and producers seeking to put more grass weight on their cattle are finding that sound pasture management has never been more attractive and/or profitable.
Here are some tips on increasing your forages, with the first one being….
- Consult county Extension experts about the specifics of your local area before proceeding.
- Stockpiled forages. Setting aside a supply of forage to use after forage growth has ended in the fall is called "stockpiling" or "deferred grazing." When pastures are managed for deferred grazing, a compromise sometimes has to be made between yield and quality, since the highest yield often produces lower quality forage.
Forages adaptable to stockpiling include perennials such as…
- Tall fescue
- Ladino (red) Clover
Overseeding a pasture or hayfield will increase both quantity and quality of forage. But beware! As I learned from adding too much clover and alfalfa to our pasture mix, if you plan to take a "1st cutting" off your pastures in the spring prior to turning out your cattle, It’ll take forever to dry and bail. And if you do small square bale’s they will be sooooo heavy, your wife will complain the whole time your unloading the wagons!
Up here in North-East PA sometimes drydown can take as long as 5-6 day’s depending on the relative humidity and overnight temperatures. However. Summer pastures over-seeded with Legumes work best for providing a nitrogen source and improving pasture quality. The legumes that work best, no matter where in the country you live, are red and white clovers. But you also need to watch for bloat and/or grass tetany in early spring if your cattle have been accustomed to dry hay all winter.
Cool season pastures. Due to the fall-like temperatures we’ve been having recently, our cool season grasses are growing remarkably well, only problem is that we get rain every 3-4 days which isn’t conducive with making dry hay. Cool season pastures can help you extend the green period across as much of the growing period as possible and improve livestock weight gain. Perennial cool season pasture grasses grow in dry land conditions not drought stricken area’s and can supplement native range by providing a month or more of nutritious grazing in the spring and possibly again in the fall.
Rotational grazing. A rotational grazing program such as what we use on our farm/ranch, uses several pastures with one being grazed while the others are rested. We divide our pasture into smaller areas
called paddocks (approx. 2 acres each), and move our cattle from one to the next, determined by the rate of forage re-growth which is directly related to weather, or the lack thereof.
The practice of rotational grazing can increase net profit
by reducing the cost of machinery, fuel and storage facilities;
and by cutting back on supplemental feeding and pasture waste (selective grazing).
Extended Grazing. We leave our herd on pasture into the fall and winter, utilizing perennial pastures held in reserve (stockpiled forages). For those of you who supplement your cattle with grain, it has been estimated that each day your cattle graze on pasture, your feed costs could be cut in half.
Another advantage to grazing your cattle in rotational pastures/paddocks is the costs of hauling manure is reduced. Nutrients are returned to the land naturally to be used by growing forages while in the rest cycle of your rotational grazing program.