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Stockpile extra summer growth for winter pasture
Forage Minute

Stockpile extra summer growth for winter pasture

Rangeland in drought

Pasture and range conditions are starting the summer season off in a bad spot; unless most of the country sees much-needed moisture it will only become worse.

While the amount of spring rain has varied significantly across the state, those areas that have had abundant rain will likely have abundant grass. If this describes your situation, your pastures may produce more growth than needed for your current summer stocking rates. Options to use the extra growth are needed.

Most often, we cut and bale extra growth as hay. This is a good plan if you need the hay, or you anticipate high hay prices this fall and an opportunity to sell that hay. Other times we simply let cattle graze what they want and leave the excess in the field, rebuilding surface litter.

How about another option? Try stockpiling or saving some extra pasture growth for grazing during the winter.

There are lots of advantages to winter grazing. For starters, less hay needs to be fed next winter. Thus, you won’t need to make as much hay this summer. And stockpiling in summer and fall followed by winter grazing is one of the best methods to improve the health of your grasslands, especially native range. A full growing season without grazing will benefit vigor and reproductive ability of the grasses.

Poor condition and low producing pastures are often the best candidates for winter grazing.

Cattle will do a pretty good job of picking high quality plant parts to eat while winter grazing.

However, as winter grazing progresses, supplementation will likely be needed as the dormant grasses are relatively low in crude protein content.

Extra growth is an opportunity to both reduce winter feed costs and improve pasture condition. Get it by stockpiling extra summer growth for winter grazing.

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