By: John Thomas - This past winter the Grazing for Cash program conducted several demonstrations across KY for producers to see best management practices in place, and the benefits they possess. One of these demonstrations was implemented in Madison County by producer John Thomas. Mr. Thomas utilizes recommended management practices such as forage improvement, rotational grazing, extending the grazing season using small grains and mak-ing timely hay harvests. His operation consists of a commercial Hereford cow/calf herd with spring and fall calv-ing seasons. John utilizes crossbreeding of South Devon bulls to Hereford cows and then breeds those replacement females to Sim/Angus genetics. All replacements are raised on the farm which consists of 375 acres and ap-proximately 90 cows.

Mr. Thomas participated in a demonstration trial concentrating on using stockpiling fescue to extend the grazing season. Brandon Sears, Madison County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, worked with Mr. Thomas to select a field for stockpiling and establish the dimensions of each paddock. The field chosen consisted of 9.6 total acres and was mowed to a height of 4-6 inches in early August. Brandon calculated this cost to be $11.50/ acre. They applied 100 lbs. of Ureaper acre to the majority of the field, except for an area 100 feet wide across the entire length to serve as an untreated comparison. Mr. Thomas used a small pond as his watering source that also served as a pivot point when laying out the grazing areas. The field was divided into 6 paddocks, each approximately the same size.

On November 21st forage samples were taken to determine quality and yield of the stockpiled fescue. Cattle were then turned into the first paddock on November 25th. There were 14 heifers and 1 bull. The initial average weight was 1040 lbs. each. The cattle were taken out of this field on January 6, 2015 at an average weight of 1089 lbs. Free-choice mineral was available to the herd at all times, but no other supplementation was provided. Mr. Thomas was able to graze this group of cattle for 46 days without feeding any hay and achieve approximately 1 lb./hd/d rate of gain.

Stockpiled fescue with nitrogen applied produced on average 1344 lbs. more dry matter (DM) per acre than fescue that had not received any nitrogen. After calculating the available DM and the stocking density Brandon was able to deter-mine the number of grazing days the section with nitrogen provided, as well as the portion without nitrogen. Results indicated that by adding nitrogen the cattle could graze for 46 days. If no nitrogen had been added Mr. Thomas would have only gotten 28.6 days of grazing. By adding nitrogen Mr. Thomas was able to graze his cattle an additional 17 days without having to feed any hay.

Not only did stockpiling fes-cue extend the grazing season, but it provided high quality forage when compared to the common tall fescue harvested for hay. The crude protein level for our stockpiled fescue was 12.1%. Comparatively, normal fescue hay will be 7-10%. The TDN level for stock-piled fescue was 59%. Fes-cue hay ranges from 48-55% TDN. Nutrient requirements for a mature cow giving aver-age milk is 57% TDN and 9.5% CP. Stockpiled fescue is able to provide a cow of this type with enough nutrients that supplementation is kept at a minimum. However, as winter progresses the quality of stockpiled fescue will decline as it gets weathered and damaged from winter conditions.

Stockpiling fescue can help decrease hay feeding through the winter months. Feeding fewer bales of hay and reducing expenses is a goal that most producers would like to reach. By calculating the cost of added nitrogen and temporary fencing, Brandon determined the fertilized stockpiled fescue expenses were $44 a ton. By comparison, the non-fertilized stockpiled fescue only cost $24 a ton, but was lower yielding. Purchasing hay at roughly $35 per 1,000 lb. roll bale at 90% DM will cost a producer $76 a ton. The cost for producing on-farm hay is estimated at $84 a ton. By comparison, it is cheaper to stockpile fescue than to buy or produce your own hay, and it provides better quality forage.

Conclusions from this demonstration show that stockpiling fescue provides forage that is higher in quality than average fescue hay if a producer doesn’t wait too late in the winter to graze. Cattle may require less supplementation vs feeding just hay. In addition to feeding less hay, Mr. Thom-as also saved money from reduced fuel cost and the wear on his tractor. For more information see your local Cooperative Extension ANR Agent or UK publication: Stockpiling for Fall and Winter Pasture, http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr162/agr162.pdf.