NOVELTY, Mo. – When it comes to winter feed for beef herds, applying a pound of nitrogen to pastures in August gives a good return.
A pound of nitrogen fertilizer makes about 20 pounds of forage dry matter, Justin Sexten, beef nutritionist, told Greenley Center Field Day visitors, Aug. 9.
Feeds for wintering the cow herd can be hay and distillers byproducts. But for ease of feeding and nutrient value, it’s hard to beat stockpiled fescue pasture, said the University of Missouri Extension specialist.
Five wagonloads of visitors came by on the beef tour at the MU research farm east of Novelty, Mo. Most visitors also took the crop and pest control tours.
“This is something you can take home and use now,” Sexten told beef producers. “Mid-August until Sept. 1 is the time to clip, or graze, pastures down to a 4-inch height.”
Then apply about 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre and wait for the fall rains to activate growth.
“It will rain again,” Sexten assured herd owners who have survived a prolonged hot, dry summer. “I just don’t know when, or how much, it will rain.”
Sexten added that if you wait for the rains to come before applying fertilizer, it will be too late. “The early growth is the fastest. Later in the season, grass grows slower.”
With nitrogen at 55 cents a pound, a price mentioned by a visitor as a current local cost, the feed will cost less than three cents per pound of dry matter.
If you can buy hay for less than $50 a ton, that would be competitive, Sexten calculated. “However, it will be hard to find hay with the nutrient content of stockpiled grass.”
There are other advantages of stockpiling. “The cows will harvest the grass. You don’t have to haul baled hay to them or figure how to store, handle and feed distillers grain.
“A challenge with stockpiled forage is if rains are delayed. Alternative winter feeds may be needed,” Sexten added. “Consider a balance of stockpile, hay or supplement such as DDGS (dried distillers grains).
“People will say they don’t have enough acres to set any aside ungrazed for 75 days. You don’t have to think of stockpile grass as the sole source of nutrients of the herd through the winter. Think of stockpile as a supplement. It can provide protein and energy lacking in a lot of hay put up this year.
“Then use an electric fence to open a strip of pasture for grazing—just enough to supply supplemental needs of the diet.”