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Let’s Talk Fall Grazing

Let’s Talk Fall Grazing

South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension recently held an informative meeting to prepare ranchers for when the snow flies. The agenda included cost-effective protein choices for winter feed, maintaining body condition score in cows in their final trimester, and inventoring available forage resources. These considerations, of course, are more challenging in a drought scenario.

One statistic shared at the meeting was that 70% of the nation’s cowherd is in a drought situation, and 35% of the cows are in a severe drought.

In my area, we have gotten some late-season rain and, while it’s too late to help the crops, it certainly is greening up pastures and setting us up for some good fall grazing. We use rotational grazing to get the most out of our pastures, and our previously grazed paddocks are growing back quite nicely.

Once the corn crop is completely harvested, we’ll move the cows onto the fields to graze the crop residues. If the snow holds off, our available forage resources could allows the cows to graze well into December. We also creep feed our calves and we are fortunate that we haven’t had to wean early, as our pastures are supporting the pairs well.

However, I realize not everyone is in the same boat.

As this drought continues to plague ranchers [3] across the U.S., it’s imperative to have a drought plan in place, especially if this dry weather continues into 2013 and forage resources are further depleted.

While some parts of the U.S. have received much-needed rains recently, the latest USDA report says 18% of the nation’s pasture and range is rated as Good or Excellent, with 58% at Poor or Very Poor. This week’s online poll question on the beefmagazine.com homepage is: “What’s your operation’s fall grazing status?”

With 77 votes in so far, 53% say, “very poor.” Another 25% will have good grazing this fall. And, 22% have average grazing.

Vote in the poll here. [4]

What's going on in your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comments section below.