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Year-round pasture management tips to maximize on-farm forages

Putting pastures to work full-time offers low-cost source of cattle nutrition, with the right approach.

Providing protein and energy requirements to beef cattle with standing forage is an economical way to operate the ranch. Hay and supplements are expensive and can erode profitability. This erosion can be avoided in most geographical regions of the United States by managing cool season and warm season forages for year-round grazing.

“Forage stockpiled in late summer can provide late fall and winter grazing,” explains Dr. John Jennings, University of Arkansas. “Stockpiling forage is the practice of accumulating forage growth intended for grazing in a later season. During the spring and summer, stockpiling is seldom advantageous, except during severe drought. Forages mature and are of low quality due to stem and seedhead production in the warmer months. Cool night temperatures and shorter days of late summer and fall tend to reduce forage fiber content, thus promoting leafy, high quality forage.”

Warm-season grasses offer good late-spring, summer and early fall grazing as you plan to extend pasture availability for the season.

“Tall fescue and bermudagrass are the most commonly stockpiled forages, but bahiagrass and dallisgrass have also been stockpiled successfully,” Jennings continues. “Other forages may produce good fall growth but then deteriorate quickly. Some forage, such as crabgrass, is excellent quality during the growing season, but becomes unpalatable. It degrades quickly after a killing frost and is often refused by cattle.”

To read more pasture management tips, click here.

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