Pasture, feeding tips for dry conditions

With the extended hot, dry weather we’ve been having, the following is the first of a two-part article with 10 tips for pasture and feeding in dry conditions:
1. Supplementing pastures may be necessary to keep animals from over-grazing
This will mean moving them onto a “sacrifice” pasture and feeding.
Livestock usually will prefer pasture, so they will keep re-grazing and weakening pastures rather than accepting the supplemental feed if they still have access.
Producers find they fed less supplemental feed, and had better gains, if they supplemented early before livestock condition was affected and pastures were weakened.
Neither has to be adversely affected, but you will have to take control of the situation.
2. Pastures can be extended by bringing other crops into the rotation
Second-cut hay often is used to lengthen the rest period. Other crops, such as cereals and annual ryegrass, can be grazed during summer slumps to give an extended break to the main pastures.
3. Nitrogen (N) fertilizer will give a boost to grass production in a pasture
Apply preceding a rainfall in order to get the nitrogen into the soil. If the nitrogen granules lay on the soil surface without rain, much of the N will be lost into the atmosphere.
An application of 50-75 kg of N/ha is best.
Lower amounts will not promote significant growth; the grass will turn green but extra growth will be limited.
4. Stockpile grazing can extend the grazing season into the late fall or even early winter
Stockpile grazing involves allowing the forage to grow through the late summer and early fall for use as pasture after the growing season ends.
Research and experience has shown that a non-lactating beef cow can survive very well on stockpiled forage—and even gain weight.
This practice can reduce the need for stored forage for several weeks to several months, depending on how you apply it to your farm.
5. Consider harvesting cereal crops as forage rather than grain
These crops make excellent forage and greatly increase the amount of feed that is realized from the crop.
Cereals are most successfully harvested as baleage or silage at or before the kernel reaches the soft dough stage and while the leaves are still green.
Early harvested cereal fields can be re-seeded to a cereal to provide forage in about six weeks’ time (seeding should be done by early August and requires sufficient soil moisture to germinate and grow the new plants).
Oats work well, but barley also will produce good late-season forage. Broadcast the seed and work lightly to get good seed-to-soil contact.
6. Corn stover can provide a low-cost feed source for mid-gestation beef cows
The energy in a cornfield is half in the grain and half in the stover, or plant material. Once the crop is harvested, half the feed energy remains in the field.
The cows can enjoy an additional benefit by gleaning the kernels and small cobs that passed through the combine.
Most fields will provide between one and two months of grazing per cow per acre (50 cows on 50 acres for one-two months).
However, cows should be monitored closely and body condition scores recorded, so that necessary supplementation can take place when required.
Dates to remember
•July 26—Rainy River Soil & Crop Improvement Association farm tour; and
•July 26–Emo Agricultural Research Station open house, 7 p.m.