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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
Dudley Smith

Fall Grazing: Management and Grazing Strategies

Posted by Travis Meteer - Grazing

Cattlemen that took advantage of idle wheat ground or corn silage fields by seeding annual forages are smiling. With the hurricane rain and some timely showers since, most of these forages have grown well and will provide ample forage for extending the grazing season.

Incorporating them into fall grazing requires some thought. Each producer will have a different scenario so evaluate your own options.

What forages do you have right now? -Grass? - Cornstalks? -Oats? -Turnips? -Rye? -Wheat?

First, Caution needs to be taken on corn fields that have elevated nitrate levels or Aflatoxin present. If you choose to graze them, I would use low stalking rates on the high nitrate fields. Do not use fields that were positive for Aflatoxin and had a high percentage of ear drop. There are ways to utilize these fields, but there is risk involved. Be sure to consult an Extension specialist or nutritionist.

Next, if you have grass pastures that are 6 inches or taller there is opportunity to graze them yet this fall. Remember, a little rest may help these pastures recover and be more productive in the spring. So, weigh your options and choose wisely. Whatever you choose, leave at least 3-5 inches of residual.

Now, in areas that have not had elevated nitrates or Aflatoxin, crop residues should be utilized heavily. In this scenario, 80 acres of cornstalks would be sufficient for 30-40 cows for at least 30 days. If yields were over 100 bu./acre, they could be good for up to 60 days, but supplementation would be needed the last half. If you have more corn acres than cows, move cows to new fields, just be prepared to offer a little protein supplementation because forage quality will continue to decrease with time.

If you have fall-seeded forages, here are a few general recommendations. Use them after cornstalks if possible. Strip-graze these forages. This will allow for some regrowth and greatly increase utilization (up to 40%). Oats need to be grazed before they start to head out, but be patient to maximize yields (usually maximum yield is 70-80 days post planting). Rye needs to be strip-grazed and allowed to have some re-growth to ensure it will be there in the spring. Rye will have lower fall yields, but will come on strong in the early spring. Turnips need to be 10-12 inches tall before grazing and if strip-grazed can offer some regrowth for subsequent winter grazing. If you plan to bale or chop these forages, do it before a hard frost.

Finally, the drought decreased grazing opportunities this summer. However, Mother Nature has given us some grazing days this fall. Utilize them carefully and have a plan. Remember feed costs are extremely high and some feeds are becoming more unavailable. Fundamentals say there will be good cattle markets ahead of us. Prepare your herd to be there to take advantage of them.

More information on "Extending the Grazing Season" and management of fall forages is available here.

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