As we begin a new year, it is a good time for cattle, goat and sheep producers to review livestock and grazing management practices. Let’s consider some grazing suggestions for the first six months of 2014 (we will look at the later months in a future article) as producers attempt to feed cattle through grazing as many days as possible this year. Let’s begin with January, a month not suitable for grazing.
January is usually a period that requires that hay, soy hulls, or other stored feeds to supply some or all of livestock nutrition. Stockpiled fescue may be left and can be useful forage but quality and quantity will be declining. Anticipate the coming calving of the spring-calving cow herd by raising the quality and amount of hay fed.
February to April – Fertilize early for earliest possible green-up on some fields by applying nitrogen in early spring to cool season grass fields, ryegrass, or small grains for early pasture. Expect to get on these pastures 7 to 14 days earlier than traditional turn out time, depending on the year. Fields that face south, that are better drained, and that do not have excessive growth of forage will warm up first and will start growing first.
April to mid-June is the time of maximum growth rates that will often require harvesting of excess production as hay, haylage or baleage. Rotate pastures quickly and don’t try to utilize large percentages of the forage in any given pasture, or forage growth will get too far ahead on more paddocks than necessary. Consider leader/follower systems to maximize the animal gains and also to raise the utilization levels of pastures. Harvest excess growth on time, based on stage of maturity, to produce high quality hay or haylage and to allow for larger amounts of regrowth.