Harvested feed costs can be one of the largest expenses to cattle producers. Windrow grazing, sometimes called swath grazing, is a management practice that can significantly reduce harvesting and feeding costs, says Aaron Berger, University of Nebraska beef Extension educator.
Swathing the crop and leaving the windrows in the field provides several advantages:
- Eliminates the costs of baling and hauling bales.
- Reduces labor and equipment costs of feeding.
- Returns some nutrients and organic matter from consumed forage back to the soil.
Cool, dry conditions frequently associated with late fall and winter in Nebraska are favorable for preserving forage in a windrow, Berger says in an Extension news release. Greater average precipitation in eastern Nebraska does increase the risk of windrow deterioration.
Windrow grazing of warm season annual forages such as foxtail millet, sudan grass and sorghum x sudan grass hybrids can provide an excellent way to harvest these forages when they are at an optimum for quality and efficiently utilize them with minimal waste.
Windrow grazing of cool season annual forages such as spring triticale, oats and spring barley planted in late summer can provide high quality late fall and winter grazing as well.
Snowfall from October through March can be quite variable; however, extended periods when snow cover would prevent windrow grazing are limited. If cattle know that the windrows are present, they will dig through the snow to get to the windrows.
A webinar is available that highlights more of the details of using this management practice at http://beef.unl.edu.