Pasture green close up

Producers can plan strategies in the cold of winter to keep cows grazing until they are ready to hit the corn stalks in the fall.

Eventually the hot summer sun will begin taking its toll on pastures.

When the days turn long, cow/calf producers will begin looking for other options, most likely hay. But there are other strategies producers can be planning in the cold of winter to keep cows grazing until they are ready to hit the corn stalks in the fall.

Denise Schwab, Extension beef specialist with Iowa State University in Vinton, says some pastures may include warm-season grasses. However, establishing warm-season paddocks can be challenging.

“You will need to commit a paddock or two to make this work,” she says.

Schwab says producers could add their hay fields into the grazing rotation to help stretch out summer grazing.

“They may take the first two cuttings, then graze it once or twice,” she says. “I think that’s a fairly common practice in southern Iowa.”

Summer annuals are also an option. Schwab says producers who raise their own cover crop seed will plant rye or other grains and let those acres grow to maturity to harvest seed.

“You’ll seed that in early July,” she says, adding there should be adequate growth to allow for some grazing after the seeds are harvested.

“If you can strip graze that, you are going to get a lot of forage off it,” Schwab adds.

Other cover crops can also be seeded for grazing in late summer, she says.

Chopping silage and following that with cover crop seeding can also provide late summer grazing, says Ben Beckman, Extension beef specialist with the University of Nebraska in Hartington.

“Silage cutting followed by forage seeding is a pretty good option,” he says, adding that should provide some additional grazing opportunity into late summer and early fall.

Beckman says having a strong warm-season grass stand would be ideal for summer grazing. He says it is possible to interseed cool-season grasses into warm-season pastures, but says some cool-season species such as brome are very aggressive and could cut into the warm-season stand.

“If you have warm-season pastures and time your grazing correctly, you can stretch it out well into summer,” he says.

Beckman says producers can use annual forages, such as sorghum sudangrass, and millet can also be used to stretch out summer grazing.

“You need to establish a seed bed to get it started, but once you do, it works really well,” he says.

A last option might be grazing standing corn, Beckman says.

“You need to make sure you do it correctly, or you could have issues with nitrates or acidosis,” he says. “But if you really need to use it, a corn field is a viable option.”

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.