Fall forage should begin with inventory

The first order of business in managing fall forage is to inventory your existing pastures and determine what or if there is a need to enhance fall production. Include hay reserves as well by accounting for the volume and quality of hay that is in storage.

If existing pasture and hay reserves are adequate, then it' is a matter of allocating the forage to the livestock, matching quality of forage to the physiological requirements of the animals.

Let's assume that additional forage is needed for this fall and winter. Usually, the most cost-effective means to supply additional forage would be to fertilizeto fertilize existing perennial-introduced pastures.

Some of the most common forages that respond well to fall fertilization are bermudagrass and tall fescue. Bermudagrass, is a warm-season forage, but, if fertilized with 50 units of nitrogen in late August or early September and with adequate rainfall in September, bermudagrass could produce 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of additional production by frost.

Tall fFescue, is a cool-season perennial grass, that can respond similarly in the fall and will initiate spring growth in the late winter and early spring, as well. When allowed to stockpile (deferred from grazing) until frost following fertilization, fescue this fall-produced forage will be a of greater quality than forages not fertilized in the fall.

Best sites for fall fertilization would be those that havewith highly productive soils and are grazed short or hayed cut for hay before nitrogen application, and preferably in soils that do not require other nutrients.

Such stockpiled forage could be used by mature cows as standing hay or even by growing cattle prior to winter pasture turnout or while backgrounding after weaning or receiving. Due to the quality of forage that could be produced, judiciously use the stockpiled pasture judiciously, especially if grazing with dry cows.

Ryegrass overseed

Another option would be to take the same bermudagrass pasture and overseed with ryegrass (10 to 20 pounds per acre) as well. SThe stockpiled bermudagrass would be grazed during the winter, allowing the ryegrass to initiate growth in the late winter and early spring. This could be most advantageous for spring-calving cows or heifers where athat need a higher plane of nutrition is needed. As a rule of thumb, plant about 0.75 to 1.0 acres per mature cow of ryegrass in order to fully utilize the ryegrass in the spring‥

If cropland is involved and a quality forage is needed for stockers or retained calves after weaning, cereal grains such as wheat, rye, ryegrass and oats can be planted in early September, usually at a rate of 100 to 120 pounds per acre of seed and 70 units or more of nitrogen, depending on the number and size of calves and the grazing duration required to reach sale weights. As a rule of thumb, plant at least one acre of winter pasture per stocker calf for fall and winter grazing.

With this being said, let's take a look at how one wouldto manage a spring-calving cow herd and fall-calving cow herd. Projecting forward this fall, the spring-born calves would be weaned in October. If additional forage would be beneficial during the fall, graze the cow herd on the most productive bermudagrass pastures during the last half of summer, acquiring a 4- to 5-inch residual by late August.

Fertilize about one1 to -two2 acres per cow with 50 units of nitrogen about Sept.ember 1, and move the cows to other pastures to graze until frost. If available, do the same on a smaller acreage for the calves if they are to be back-grounded for 30 to -45 days after weaning. Fertilize no more than 0.5 acres per weaned calf, and be prepared to allow the cows to utilize the residual after calves are marketed or moved to winter pasture. After weaning, allow dry cows to graze unfertilized introduced pastures, up even after frost.

Fescue stockpile

Once a desired residue height is achieved, move cows into the stockpiled bermudagrassbermudagrass, grazing as efficiently as possible. Strip grazing (1-3one- to three-day allocations) works well when electric fences are in place. existence. Native-grass pastures can be used either prior to grazing the stockpiled forage or after, but it is best to utilize use the stockpiled pastures before weathering occurs.

If tall fescue also is present also, consider fertilizing the fescue and allowing it to stockpile, and then grazee it after all other forages are fully utilized. Often a spring-calving cow herd will begin calving on the stockpiled tall fescue‥

For a fall-calving herd, again graze or cut hay off the most productive pastures by the end of summer and fertilize 2 two to four4 acres per cow for fall stockpile and grazing. If both bermudagrass and tall fescue are available, prioritize the fescue fertility over the bermudagrass in the fall. Attempt to stockpile fescue to be grazed during the breeding season. If the pasture is only bermudagrass, fertilize grazing pasturesit only if the forage can be fully utilized. In all cases, use hay after the standing reserves have been grazed to an appropriate residual.

Keep this in mind: Iit is usually easier to take the cattle to the pasture than it is to take the pasture to the cows.cattle.

The Noble Foundation at (www.noble.org), headquartered in Ardmore, Okla., is a nonprofit organization conducting agricultural, forage improvement and plant biology research; providing grants to non-profit charitable, educational and health organizations; and assisting farmers and ranchers through educational and consultative agricultural programs. For more information, call (580) 223-5810.

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