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Stockpiling Forages Extends Grazing Season

Terrell Davis, ANR Agent, Pike County CES

Livestock producers have been amazed at the amount of precipitation this summer. The typical late summer drought doesn’t seem to be a concern this year. However, it is always wise to keep a reserve of hay and silage for those years when forages are sparse. One way to extend the grazing season and lower the feed bill is to stockpile warm season forages. Stockpiling is the practice of accumulating forage growth intended for grazing in a later season. In Arkansas, bermuda grass, bahia grass and dallis grass are good choices for stockpiling. Fescue is also a great choice and can remain a viable option much longer than most warm season grasses.

Stockpiling requires more than simply letting it grow. Dr. John Jennings, extension forage professor, states that “the growth potential of stockpiled forage is usually 2,00-3,00 pounds of dry matter per acre.” First remove the existing forage residue. In fescue, this should be done by late August and left at a height of 3-4 inches. Warm season grasses such as Bermuda should be cut from late July to mid-August and left with 2-3 inches of stubble. Cattle will not graze any lower than the last grazing length. Therefore, if the grass is grazed to 5 inches from the ground, they will stop eating 5 inches from the ground.

Secondly, the area that will be stockpile should be fertilized with 50-60 pounds of Nitrogen per acre. Waiting to fertilize in September could cause a loss in as much as 60% of forage growth compared to fertilizing in mid-August.  Cattle should be fenced off of the stockpiled forages until late October to allow growth to accumulate. Bermuda grass will remain a viable forage until mid- December. After that period, the stems and leaves degrade quickly. Fescue can be grazed until February. Strip or rotational grazing works best with both of these scenarios. A great time to utilize stockpiled forages is during those cold winter rains when cattlemen would rather not get out in the soggy field and cause damage and ruts to their pastures. Grazed forages will almost always contain more nutrients than hay or silage. Providing good nutrient throughout gestation will also help maintain a healthier herd.

For more information on stockpiling forages, contact the Pike County Extension office at 870-285- 2161 or visit uaex.edu/pike. Refer to Fact Sheet FSA3133 for more details.