Preparing for Winter Grazing

— Written By Kinsey Everhart
en Español

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Stockpiling forage is a great way to reduce winter feeding costs. It is a method that lets grasses accumulate for grazing at a later period, usually after dormancy. Now is the time to start stockpiling pastures for winter grazing. Two factors influence how long you should let pastures stockpile. The first is to know if you predominantly have cool-season or warm-season grasses and the other is what species of livestock you will be overwintering. Warm-season grasses will go dormant much earlier than cool-season grasses. Cool-season grasses also can withstand several frosts before they become fully dormant.

Cool-season grasses should be giving a 60 to 75 day stocking period. Allowing pastures to stockpile longer that 75 days generally does not give greater forage yield, but can result in lower quality forage. Determine when your active growing season ends and back up 60 to 75 days from that date. For example, if you choose November 1, your start date would be August 15 to 31.

Warm-season grasses do not tend to stockpile as well as cool-season forages. Protein content declines rapidly as the plant matures. Letting the warm-season forages to accumulate for 40 to 50 days will result in higher protein levels. Few perennial warm-season forages will continue to grow after a killing frost. Take the expected first killing frost date and back up 40 to 50 days. Begin stockpiling on this day.

For more information about how you can stockpile forage for future grazing or for more information on grazing management, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office.