Maximize winter grazing potential

TRI-STATE – With the high costs of feed, livestock producers may see some relief from fall and winter grazing. Living in the tristate area does make it more difficult to achieve enough forage to graze for the entire winter but with a little bit of preparation it is possible to extend grazing by a month or more.

One option to avoid high feed costs is by stockpiling pastures. Most producers don’t have the adequate space to set aside from the first of August to graze after the killing freeze. Picking grazing areas with bountiful amounts of fescue grass for your rotational fall and winter pasture will but down on the need for supplemental feedings. Fescue grasses are a great option because they stand upright after a killing freeze. Other cool season type grasses don’t maintain their upright stance after a freeze and therefore should be grazed on shortly after the first freeze. 

With summer rains come large crops of summer annual feed material for optimal fall and winter grazing. Annuals like millet, sudangrass and sorghumXsudangrass maintain their upright appearance after a killing freeze. Allowing the annuals to grow from about August to the first hard freeze is essential for adequate forage. Since sudangrass and sorghumXsudan have the ability for prussic acid poisoning, avoid the plants from the first frost until the temperature reaches 28 degrees for three or more hours. Reaping the benefits is best achieved by strip grazing with a moveable fence. 

For maximum forage growth potential, sew winter annuals. Drill winter annuals such as oats, triticale and brassicas following corn silage. By seeding production ground for winter annuals or cover crops for winter a maximum forage production will help defer some of the animal feed costs. 

Corn stalk grazing has been a traditional approach to lessening the burden of high livestock feed costs. However, the area uses less corn stalks as animal feed than area acers of field corn planted. The feed value in the ears, leaves and husks drops quickly once they are consumed or deteriorated by weather. Because grazing cattle will seek out the more nutritional ears, leaves and stalks, it is recommended corn fields should be rotationally strip grazed to increase maximum usage. 

As with any type of grazing pattern, it is important to pre-plan the flow of your winter grazing rotation. This will help account for weather and gazing conditions which your livestock make encounter during the winter months. 

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