Agriculture News: Prepare for winter feeding now

By Keenan Bishop Published:

We’ve been luckier than most when it comes to rain this summer. A good bit of the state and nation are in various levels of drought conditions. As a result, hay supplies may be tight this year and what is available for sale may end up costing you a little more.

Add to that the high price of corn and even commodity feeds and the winter feeding, which is already the most expensive part of owning cattle, could get pretty expensive.

Many livestock producers can take advantage of the late summer and fall growing conditions to obtain high-quality pasture for fall and early winter grazing if they have recovered from the summer dry spell. This practice is called stockpiling. With continuing rains this may be possible if you start now.

Management decisions for optimum stockpiling include selecting grass species, timing, fertilizing, grazing management or utilization, selecting classes of cattle, and designing grazing systems for efficient utilization. UK’s AGR-162 gives the recipe for this practice:

The best grass for stockpiling is fescue and bluegrass, both cool-season grasses that will retain their green color and forage quality later into winter. In addition, they are both somewhat resistant to low temperatures and have the capabilities of forming a good sod. Tall fescue produces more fall and winter growth than bluegrass.


Now is the time to begin stockpiling for fall and winter use. Remove cattle, apply necessary fertilizer (see AGR-1), and allow the grass to accumulate growth until November or December. A fall application of nitrogen may not be cost effective this year though.

Make sure that summer growth has been removed to 3 to 4 inches by grazing or clipping so that stockpile production comes from new grass regrowth. During the stockpiling period, now until Nov. 1, other available forages such as sorghum-sudan hybrids, sudangrass, bermudagrass, grass-lespedeza, and grass-clover should be used. After frost, alfalfa-grass and clover-grass growth should be grazed first before moving to grass fields.

Be sure to graze the grass-legume fields quickly before the plants deteriorate. After these fields are grazed, the stockpiled grass field or fields should be grazed. Light stocking will cause a lot of waste as a result of trampling. To make most efficient use of the high-quality feed in stockpiled fields, install a temporary electric fence across the field dividing it so the area to be grazed first has a source of water and minerals. Once the animals have grazed this area off, move the fence back, opening up a new strip. Repeat this system until the entire field is grazed.

The high quality of stockpiled tall fescue produces good gains on both weaned stock and mature cows. These gains are a response to the high crude protein and digestibility of the fall growth of tall fescue. In particular, the sugar content rises to very high levels in response to lower temperatures and shortening day length.

This nutritional change does not take place overnight because of the first frost but is spread over time. Speaking of frost, remember that frosted Johnsongrass or clovers are not safe for livestock to graze.

Now let me clarify the feeding of Johnsongrass.

Last week I wrote that recovering Johnsongrass shortly after being drought stressed can harbor prussic acid. UK recommends waiting until the new growth is around waist high for grazing. This is only true for grazing standing forage. For hay, cut Johnsongrass is safe once it is dried down and able to be baled.


The Franklin County Conservation District continues its Local Cost Share sign-up through Wednesday, Aug, 15. To sign up visit the office at 103 Lakeview Ct., next door to the Extension Office at 101 Lakeview Ct.

The contact is Eric Phillips at 695-5203, ext. 3 or


This year’s Franklin County corn crop varies widely. I’ve seen corn that has matured normally and I’ve seen fields with hardly any ears. The main difference is planting date. Corn that tried to pollinate during the extremely high temperatures, dry winds and no rainfall suffered the worst.

The ear on the left is nearly normal. The ear to its right is still about 7” long but suffered from uneven pollination while the third ear pollinated early on but failed to continue developing to the end of the cob. The ear on the far right suffers from both conditions.

Farmers that won’t have enough grain to harvest have several options: 1. Plow the whole crop back in to retain nutrients and organic matter. 2. Harvest for silage for livestock IF nitrate levels are acceptable, or 3. Graze the field.

Option 3 allows for some of the nutrients to return to the soil and provides a solution for low hay reserves but the farmer still needs to be concerned about nitrate levels.

Every nitrate test I’ve done so far has detectable levels and only one has been safe to feed as is.

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