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Getting the Most out of Stockpiled Grass

Getting the Most out of Stockpiled Grass
By Chris Teutsch
Stockpiled tall fescue is in the most economical way feed cows during the winter months. Once stockpiled growth has accumulated, how you choose to utilize it can dramatically impact how may grazing days you get per acre. Research in Missouri showed that giving cows access to only enough forage for 3-days versus 14-days resulted in a 40% increase in grazing days per acre. The following tips will help to get the most of your stockpile.
Graze pastures that contain warm-season grasses first. Although we often like to think of pastures as monocultures, they are often complex mixtures of cool and warm-season grasses, legumes and weedy forbs. If pastures contain warm-season grasses, use these first since their quality will decline rapidly in late fall and early winter.
Graze pastures containing clover next. We are always happy to see clover in pastures. However, in a stockpiling scenario it does not hold up to freezing and thawing as well as tall fescue. So mixed pastures before pure stands of tall fescue.
Save pastures with primarily tall fescue for later grazing. Tall fescue is by the best grass for stockpiling in terms of maintaining its nutritive value as you head into winter. So, graze pure stands last.
Strip graze tall fescue. As mentioned above, limiting access to stockpiled forage can significantly increase grazing days per acre. Strip grazing usually starts at the water source and then uses a single strand of electrified polywire to allocate only enough forage for the predetermined time period. It could 1, 2, 3, or more days. The shorter the time period the better utilization you will get. Since pastures are not actively growing during the winter months, you can start at your water source and no back fencing is needed.
Expert Tip: When strip grazing, never take your forward fence down until the back fence (new one) is up. If you do, the cows will be on the other side of the pasture!
To many producers that have not stripped grazed, the idea of moving a temporary fence two of three times a week or even once a week can seem overwhelming. However, once you are set up it really goes pretty fast and the pay backs are huge—a free day of feed every time you move the fence. Is it less work than feeding hay? Probably not less, but just different and the pay back is much better.
Figure 2. Strip grazing stockpiled grass is accomplished by starting at the water source and allocating only enough pasture
The last thing that I want to mention about utilizing strip grazing is that how often you move the fence needs to fit your schedule. Many producers work off the farm and it is dark when they leave and dark when they get home. So, for them it makes sense to move the fence once a week on Saturdays or Sundays. It is important to remember that grazing systems need to benefit not only the pasture and cows, but also you!
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