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Stockpiling forage for fall and winter pastures

By JERRY LITTLE

Contributing Writer

Many cattle producers can take advantage of late summer and early fall growing conditions to obtain high-quality pasture for late fall and early winter grazing. This practice is called stockpiling.

The best grasses for stockpiling are cool-season grasses because they will retain good quality and palatability into winter. Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue are two good grasses most suitable for stockpiling under our growing conditions.

Late July and August are the best times to begin stockpiling for fall and winter use. The basic steps include removing cattle from the pasture, applying the necessary fertilizer and allowing grass to accumulate growth until November or December.

Make sure to remove summer growth to three to four inches by grazing or clipping so stockpile production comes from new grass growth. You should get a soil test to determine if you need to add phosphorous, potassium or lime. Growers also need to top-dress at a rate of 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre on bluegrass and 40 to 100 pounds on tall fescue before Aug. 15. Research results have shown following these guidelines can increase dry matter production by 20 and 25 pounds per acre for each pound of nitrogen applied to bluegrass and tall fescue, respectively.

The source of nitrogen you use is important. Ammonium nitrate is the most efficient fertilizer to use when stockpiling because it is not subject to volatilization. However, ammonium nitrate is becoming more difficult to find, and it may be cost prohibitive. Research has shown that urea is about 79 to 89 percent as effective as ammonium nitrate, but urea can be just as effective as well if you use an urease inhibitor.

To maximize stockpiled forage use, be sure to graze the grass-legume fields quickly after the first frost. Pure grass stands will maintain palatability and quality much longer into the winter so you should graze these last. Also, you need to maintain a high stocking rate to prevent waste as a result of trampling. In this time of high costs, stockpiling cool-season grasses extends the grazing season, reduces winter hay feeding, provides a good return of high quality forage for each pound of nitrogen applied and provides your cowherd an ideal place for wintering and calving.

For more information and publications about stockpiling, contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service.

Jerry Little is the Boyle County extension agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources.