Most producers have harvested a good quantity of hay this summer, but the forage quality is low in many cases, said John Jennings, professor-forage for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“This is a similar scenario as 2013 and many producers relied on a good hay crop, of low quality, to winter their herds,” he said. “However, the winter was colder and longer than in recent years so livestock didn't fare well.”
Jennings said that with scattered rainfall occurring across the state, stockpiling fescue pastures to produce grazing in fall and winter is still an option.
“Many producers cut hay in October and begin feeding in November,” he said. “Stockpiling is similar to managing for a last cutting of hay, but is managed for livestock grazing to reduce harvest cost.”
Using the stockpiling program, cattle graze the forage through fall and winter. Forage quality of stockpiled fescue in February is usually higher than typical hay on hand.
Fertilizer should be applied by mid-September for the best growth potential. Fertilizer can be applied even during hot weather to produce good forage return. Stockpiled fescue makes excellent winter pasture.
The growth potential of stockpiled forage is usually 2,000-3,000 pounds of dry matter per acre, so the recommended fertilizer rate is 50-60 pounds per acre of nitrogen to match that yield potential. Add phosphorus and potash fertilizer according to soil test.
“Stockpiling forages has been one on the most consistent of all forage management practices in the Arkansas 300 Day Grazing Program,” Jennings said. “Over the course of 15 years of U of Arkansas stockpiled forage demonstrations, only one out of over 150 failed to pay a positive return over the cost of feeding hay.
“Stockpiling has been a key practice for achieving over 300 days of grazing for the past six years at the Livestock and Forestry Research Station at Batesville,” he said.
For more information on stockpiling forages for fall and winter grazing ask for FSA 3133 “Grazing Stockpiled Forages to Reduce Hay Feeding in Fall and Winter” at your county Extension office, or download from www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-3133.pdf.