Agriculture & Natural Resources
Stockpiling forages for winter feed now Now is the best time to begin stockpiling cool-season grass pastures for fall and winter feed. You can take advantage of good growing conditions now to obtain high-quality pasture for late fall and early winter grazing. Stockpiling helps broaden the pasture season for the cow herd, reduces feed and labor costs by lowering the amount of hay needed, and provides an ideal location for the beef herd to winter and calve.
Who really knows where the commodity market is going right now with tariff and infrastructure issues? Taking advantage of the rains and cooler temperatures we have recently been getting can allow us to hold what is left of our winter feed supply until later.
Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are the two easiest grasses to stockpile in Kentucky. Both retain their quality much later and longer than many other grasses. Take your grazing animals off the pasture now and apply nitrogen in mid-August. Top-dress at the rate of 100 pounds per acre of urea for Kentucky bluegrass. Use 100 to 200 pounds per acre on tall fescue. When using urea, it is always best to have it coated with a urease inhibitor, or apply it before a rainfall in order to prevent nitrogen loss on a hot, summer day.
Numerous studies have shown that wise fertilizer use and timing produces high production during fall and early winter. In fact, tall fescue crude protein and digestibility are better during fall and early winter than any other time of the year. If you have a spring calving herd, or running stockers, you may consider going ahead and stockpiling even if your other pastures are not ready to graze right now. Feeding poorer quality hay, or some carryover from last year now when their nutrient requirement is lower may help you avoid problems down the road. If you have a fall-calving herd, providing a high quality diet from pasture or stored feed is needed now.
Yields can be very good when water is available during the stockpiling period. Tall fescue can produce two tons of dry matter up to late November. With adequate water, producers can achieve 25 pounds of dry matter for each pound of nitrogen used.
After frost, let cattle graze the pastures with the most legumes quickly before plants deteriorate. Then, put animals on the stockpiled grass fields. For the most efficient use of stockpiled fields, establish a strip grazing system by using a temporary electric fence to section off areas of the field. The first grazing area should have water and mineral sources. When animals have grazed this area, move the fence to open a new strip. Repeat this process until the entire field has been grazed. Since grazing in the late fall and winter, there is no need to back fence, or move the water.
Stockpiled grass is an excellent choice for fall-calving cows because it can be used to meet high nutritional needs after calving and during the breeding season. Grazing stockpiled grasses may offer the most benefit to spring-calving cows in thin body condition during the fall. Growing, weaned cattle can be grazed on stockpiled fescue. Using stockpiled grasses helps lower feed costs when backgrounding cattle as well.