Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
The use of stockpiled forages can extend the grazing season and reduce the amount of stored feed needed to feed livestock through the fall and winter months. Stockpiling forages, or allowing forage growth to accumulate for use at a later time, can help extend the grazing season. To stockpile forages, cattle should be removed from these fields starting in August. Forage is allowed to grow and accumulate. Tall fescue is ideal to use for stockpiling as quality and digestibility decline slowly overwinter compared to other common forage species which deteriorate more rapidly after frost. Fescue hay is often lower in nutritional quality than stockpiled fescue. Another benefit is its ability to be grazed close with little effect on spring growth. The risk of fescue toxicity is reduced when grazing endophyte-infected tall fescue in the winter. Grazing stockpiled tall fescue can provide a high-quality feed throughout late fall and early winter, especially when the leaves of these plants are still green.
Suggested management practices, or practices proven through research to maximize utilization and prolong the grazing season, should be used when grazing stockpiled forages in order to maximize utilization and prolong the grazing season. It is best to start grazing stockpiled fescue in November or December. This allows for maximum growth prior to grazing and minimal quality loss. If other species have been stockpiled, graze those fields first as they will decrease in quality faster. Strip grazing is ideal to maximize utilization and reduce trampling and waste. Grazing at relatively high stocking densities can also help to maximize forage utilization but be sure there is enough forage for the number of animals and allotted amount of time between new forage offerings. Be prepared for adverse weather conditions (i.e. snow or ice cover) when grazing stockpiled tall fescue by keeping hay on hand throughout the winter months.
Using stockpiled forages is a great way to extend the grazing season and reduce winter feeding costs. Tall fescue is an ideal forage to use for stockpiling in Kentucky. Providing this high-quality forage will reduce the need for stored and purchased feed, feeding labor and machinery costs. It is important to use the best management practices (practices that have been proven to maximize utilization and forage quality) in order to make this practice profitable. It is essential to look at all aspects of your operation and to consider current prices, such as fertilizer prices, before deciding if using this practice is best suited for your farm. See http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage/ProfitabilityStockpilingTallFescuePastures2012_Guide.pdf for the 2012 guide on the profitability of nitrogen applications for stockpiled tall fescue pastures.