Drought pasture grazing

AMES, Iowa — The USDA Farm Service Agency has released Conservation Reserve Program acres for emergency haying and grazing of 24 counties in western Iowa. This additional forage resource provides producers with opportunities as well as challenges.

Here are some considerations, according to Sherry Hoyer with Iowa State University Extension and the Iowa Beef Center.

Forage quality

At best, forage quality of CRP acres harvested this late in the year is comparable to corn stalks. Additionally, plants have been stressed this summer due to lack of moisture, and therefore are more mature than normal.

Previous samples of CRP forage have demonstrated crude protein values as low as 2% to as high as 8%, and energy values are frequently below 50% TDN.

It is important to get a nutrient analysis. Regardless of stage of production or class of cattle, additional energy and protein supplementation will be necessary.

Be aware of unwanted debris that may be present. To decrease the risk, avoid harvesting acres immediately alongside the ditch or fence line.

Weed presence

Pay attention to weed presence and know if there are toxicities associated with that weed. CRP acres tend to contain a large amount of undesired weeds or other forages and seed heads.

Water sources

If grazing CRP acres, carefully evaluate water sources. Many ponds have experienced prolonged periods of hot temperatures and minimal influx of new water, which is the perfect environment for algae blooms.

Use caution when hauling water to cows. Avoid using liquid fertilizer tanks to haul water, as it cannot be cleaned out well enough to prevent nitrate poisoning.