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
On June 19, 2012 the Northern Kentucky grazing network held their third pasture walk of the 2012 grazing season. The series of five pasture walks focus on the benefits of improved grazing. The June pasture walk emphasized grazing management including stocking rates, forages response to grazing, managing endophyte-infected fescue, mineral feeding while on pastures, and fencing options.
Gene and Marcy Dobbs hosted the pasture walk on their beef farm in Campbell County. Gene led the group through his rotational grazing system and pointed out key methods he utilizes and explained how he and Marcy have achieved taking a farm which consisted of 2 paddocks and large amounts of bushes, briars, and rocks and converted it into a successful cow/calf grazing operation. He highlighted changes they have made to the watering system, fencing system, and conservation.
After the pasture walk, local county extension agents highlighted key points of grazing.
management. Don Sorrell, Campbell County extension agent, discussed forage response to grazing. He emphasized the importance of keeping forages in a vegetative state. He also stressed the importance of not grazing forages too low. Common forages such as clovers, alfalfa, tall fescue, and orchardgrass differ physiologically, which affects what height they can be grazed down to without damaging the plant. During times of extreme heat and drought, it may be best to feed hay rather than damage pastures by overgrazing.
Dan Allen, Kenton County agent, talked about managing endophyte-infected tall fescue. Tall fescue varieties which are infected with the toxic endophyte can increase heat stress in livestock, cause fescue foot, reduce conception rates, and reduce daily gains. Despite these problems, tall fescue can be a useful forage if managed correctly. Inter-seeding legumes into a fescue stand can be beneficial. Because levels of the endophyte are higher in the seed head, keeping plants in a vegetative state will decrease toxicity issues. Endophyte-free varieties are available but are not as persistent or hardy. Novel-endophyte varieties have also recently become available. These varieties retain the beneficial effects of the endophyte to the plant itself but do not negatively affect livestock.
Jerry Brown, Boone County agent, discussed mineral supplementation on pastures. He stressed the importance of reading and understanding the labels on the minerals before deciding which to use. Current diet needs to be taken into consideration. Many necessary minerals are obtained in the forages being consumed. If using a salt or trace-mineral block, keep in mind that salt intake will limit mineral intake. Many mineral supplements do not contain all minerals necessary in the diet.
The next Northern Kentucky pasture walk is scheduled for August 24, 2012 in Grant County. Contact your county agent for more information.