Stockpiled Tall Fescue: Getting the Most Out of It

Once pastures have been stockpiled for late fall/winter grazing, how they are utilized can dramatically impact grazing days per acre.  Research in Missouri showed that giving cows access to only enough forage for 3-days versus 14-days resulted in a 40% increase in grazing days per acre.  In a dry year, this could mean the difference buying hay when prices are high or making it through with what you already have.  The following tips will help to get the most of your stockpiled forages.

Graze pastures that contain warm-season grasses first.  Although we often like to think of pastures as monocultures, they are often complex mixtures of cool- and warm-season grasses, legumes and weedy forbs.  If pastures contain warm-season grasses, use these first since their quality will decline rapidly in late fall and early winter.

Graze pastures containing clover next.  We are always happy to see clover in pastures.  However, in a stockpiling scenario it does not hold up to freezing and thawing as well as tall fescue.  So mixed pastures before pure stands of tall fescue.

Save pastures with primarily tall fescue for later grazing.  Tall fescue is the best grass for stockpiling in terms of maintaining its nutritive value as you head into winter.  So graze pure stands last.

Strip graze tall fescue.  As mentioned above, limiting access to stockpiled forage can significantly increase grazing days per acre.  Strip grazing usually starts at the water source and then uses a single strand of electrified polywire to allocate only enough forage for the predetermined time period.  It could be 1, 2, 3, or more days.  The shorter the time period the better utilization you will get.  Since pastures are not actively growing during the winter months, no back fencing is needed.

Bonus Tip: When strip grazing, never take your forward fence down until the back fence (new one) is up.  If you do, the cows will be on the other side of the pasture!

To many producers that have not stripped grazed, the idea of moving a temporary fence two of three times a week can seem overwhelming.  However, once you are set up it really goes pretty fast and the pay backs are huge—a free day of feed every time you move the fence.   Is it less work than feeding hay?  Probably not less, but just different and the pay back is much better.  ~ Dr. Chris Teutsch

Strip Grazing

It’s ok to make your cows work! In this photo, strip grazing stockpiled tall fescue drastically improves utilization. Photo: Dr. Chris Teutsch