Assessing Pasture: Forage Identification

When planning a grazing management plan for your pastures, it’s important to realize that pasture is the most economical and efficient way to feed your animals. When managing pasture, both the animal nutrient needs and pasture requirements should be considered. To start, begin by identifying the forage species in a pasture. Next estimate how much of it is there. During most of the spring and fall in Kentucky, you will find cool-season grasses along with some legumes.

Forage of the Month: Spring Oats

Stand of spring oatsWhen grass is in short supply during the fall and extra grazing sources are needed, spring oats can be used for grazing cattle during late fall. Oats is a high quality forage comparable to winter wheat and can be used for pasture, hay, or silage.

Grazing Alfalfa

alfalfa grazedAlfalfa is one of the most popular forage crops grown in the U.S. This high quality forage can be used for hay, silage, be a useful forage for animals with high nutrient needs. Although alfalfa is a cool-season legume, its deep root system makes it more drought tolerant than other cool-season species.

Forage of the Month: Corn

Corn is one of our most productive forages with the potential to produce more than seven tons of dry matter per acre. Few annual crops can compare to corn in terms of yield (dry matter per acre) and cost (per pound of gain). Grazing fully matured, standing corn during the winter months has proven to be a successful tool to extend the grazing season. It will help reduce feed costs as well as the investment in harvest. Winter grazing of corn typically occurs from mid-November to the end of December or later, depending on the amount of corn available.

Millets

During the hot summer months adding warm-season annuals to a grazing system can provide a high quality forage when cool-season grasses and legumes decrease in production and quality. One available warm-season annual that can be used in Kentucky is millet. Adding millets can reduce or end the need for feeding stored feeds, overgrazing of cool-season grasses when they are in the “summer slump”, and can increase field stocking density. Millets are small-seeded, fast-growing summer annual grasses used for hay, pasture, and silage.

Warm Season Perennials

Cattle graze switchgrassGrazing warm-season perennials can be beneficial throughout the hot summer months. These forages have rapid growth rates during June, July and August while fescue and other cool-season forages exhibit limited growth.

How to Use Variety Trial Publications

When renovating or establishing pastures, an important consideration is the selection of forage species and varieties. Forage species, as well as varieties within a species, vary significantly in yield, quality, and stand persistence, which combine to greatly impact performance and economic return to the operation. In addition to choosing an appropriate variety, proper seeding rates and seedbed preparation are necessary for the successful establishment of the selected variety.

Managing Rye and Annual Ryegrass

Winter annuals, such as cereal rye and annual ryegrass, can provide a high-quality forage alternative to traditional winter feeding programs that rely heavily on stored forages. These forages can provide valuable grazing time in late fall and early winter, and again in early spring.

Is Using BMR Sudangrass Right for Your Grazing System?

Brown Midrib (BMR) Sudangrass is becoming more popular as a forage grass each year. Why are livestock owners choosing to grow the BMR varieties? This hybrid sudangrass is genetically mutated to reduce the amount of lignin present in cell walls and vascular tissue in the plant. This means increased digestion and improved fiber availability for livestock. Therefore, grazing this hybrid grass can improve animal production. There are plenty of other reasons that planting a BMR sudangrass can be beneficial.