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 Small Grains

Small cereal grains, such as wheat, rye, oats, and barley, are multipurpose crops that can be used for grazing, silage, or hay production. Grazing pure stands of small grains is an effective way to extend the grazing season into the late fall and early winter, and then again in February/March for early spring grazing. Small grains are commonly planted in Kentucky as part of the crop rotation with corn and soybeans. They also serve as a cover crop to reduce soil erosion and utilize previous nitrogen applications.

Winter Feeding to Protect Pasture

Sunny fall days make it hard to think about the approaching winter months and the less than ideal feeding conditions that come with the rain, cold and snow of Kentucky winters. Some producers can prolong the grazing season by utilizing stockpiled forages or winter annuals they planted in the fall. However, most producers at some point will have to feed a form of stored forage during the winter months and special consideration should be given to protect pastures while delivering winter feed.

Using Cover Crops for Grazing Cattle

PlantsThe use of cover crops prevents soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and microbial activity, improves soil water retention, recycles nutrients and decreases soil compaction. Cover crops also provide an excellent way to extend the grazing season.

Frost Seeding

The frost seeding method allows seeds to be inter-seeded into undisturbed soils by scattering seed on top of the ground. The freezing and thawing action of the soil works the seeds into the soil where they can germinate. In Kentucky, the ideal time to frost seed is between February 10 and March 1, with mid-February preferred. It is important to consider what forage species can be successfully frost seeded. Seeding red and white clover is recommended using this method. While it is possible to frost seed some grass species, it is typically less successful and generally not recommended.

Fall & Winter Grazing

Many options exist to provide livestock with high quality forages for grazing throughout the fall and early winter months. In Kentucky, these options include utilizing perennial cool-season pasture as well as a variety of small grains and brassicas. If managed properly, seeding these annual plants in late summer or early fall can provide late fall and early spring grazing as well as providing a cover crop to reduce soil erosion throughout the winter.

Tips for Stockpiling Fescue

Select field(s) to stockpile by early August
Select the field that you are going to use for stockpiling fescue. Selecting the field or area to be allocated for stockpiling fescue in early August allows one to adjust grazing rotations or management as needed ahead of time.

Four Things to Think About Before the Grazing Season

Late winter is the time to really get the ball rolling in the right direction for a successful, upcoming grazing season. Producers need to act now to take the proper steps to set their operation up to maximize grazing this year. Below are four management areas to evaluate to start off on the right foot.

Winter Reminders 2014

  • Inventory standing forage and develop a plan to utilize remaining forage. Alfalfa can now be grazed with no negative effects on spring growth as long as the ground is firm. Do not allow animals to spend more time in the field than necessary to graze forage.
  • Sample hay and obtain forage analysis prior to feeding or sale. Develop a plan for when and to which livestock hay will be fed.
  • Evaluate grazing program for the past grazing season.

Winter Reminders

  • Plan and prepare for changes to your grazing system and pasture renovations that will be implemented next spring.
  • Apply phosphate, potash, and lime according to soil test recommendations.
  • Frost seeding of clovers should be performed between February 1 and March 1.
  • Nitrogen fertilizer should be applied in late February to promote early grass growth.
  • Alfalfa can be grazed after November 1st or the first killing frost with no negative effects on spring growth.
  • Inspect and prepare