Stockpiling forage for the winter

During the growing season, pasture generally is the most economical source of nutrients for ruminants.
When the daily routine of pasture feeding and barn feeding/manure handling are considered, most graziers would like to increase the number of days per year that animals are on pasture.
To achieve this goal, one either can start grazing earlier in the spring (hard to do) or continue grazing later in the fall (easier to do).
Thus, the grazier needs to develop a system to accumulate forage during the growing season for use in fall and winter when forage growth has stopped.
The following information is from Jim Johnston, former forage agronomist with the New Liskeard agricultural research station:
Stockpiling, or deferred grazing, refers to the accumulation of forage in the field for grazing during periods of slow (or no) growth. In fact, many farmers practice stockpiling without thinking much about it when they graze aftermath growth on hayfields in the fall.
In rotational grazing systems, the grazier may select specific paddocks to be withdrawn from grazing in summer to accumulate forage for fall grazing.
In some cases, stockpiled forage may be left over the winter to be grazed by stock in early spring.
Depending on geographic location, stockpiling can be initiated any time between early summer and late August. In general, earlier stockpile initiation dates result in greater stockpile yields in the fall.
The initiation date also may affect forage quality. Very early or very late initiation dates tend to result in relatively low or high forage quality, respectively.
A study done in Missouri showed no difference in fall stockpile yield or quality when paddocks were cut two, three, or five times prior to stockpile initiation on Aug. 9.
In general, a field with good fertility and moisture holding capacity will produce greater stockpile yields. It is wise to vary the stockpiled paddocks from one year to the next.
As long as the snow is not too deep or the ground too soft, livestock can graze the stockpiled forage. In general, dry matter yields tend to decline once hard frosts occur.
Crude protein of stockpiled forage generally declines over the winter while energy levels decline slowly or remain constant.
The livestock production system can be adapted to maximize use of the stockpiled forage.
< *c>Dates to remember
•July 25—Rainy River Hereford meeting, Archie and Eleanor Wiersema’s home, 8 p.m.; and
•July 29—Emo agricultural research station open house, 7 p.m.

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