Results of a Canadian study indicate that swath grazing can cut winter feeding costs by as much as 50 percent.The three-year study examined the relationship between swath grazing and early weaning, yield and quality issues, time of seeding and cutting, as well as economic comparisons between swath grazing and other winter-feeding regimes. The research team, led by Duane McCartney of Western Forage Beef Group, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, noted the following benefits:

  • Swath grazing can cut winter feeding costs in half.
  • Swath grazing can provide valuable spring grazing, easing pressure on seeded pastures and native range.
  • Simple electric fencing materials can minimize labor input and maximize returns.
  • Producers should have a backup feeding system to deal with severe winter conditions.
  • Straw is an integral part of a cow’s winter diet. By providing extra straw, producers can maximize returns by increasing the number of grazing days on the swaths when supplementing with straw as feed and bedding.
  • Assuming the same field will be swath-grazed several years in a row, seeding in early to mid-June and cutting in mid-September, just before the killing frost, provides the best combination of winter feed value and spring grazing opportunities.
  • After calving, producers should supplement swaths to meet the herd’s energy requirements.
  • From a winter-feeding perspective, there’s no advantage to early weaning unless fall pasture is scarce or not available.