As the growing season winds down, it’s time to plan and assess your winter grazing options, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist.

“If you can find something for your animals to graze rather than be fed hay and silage, you will probably save over a dollar per day per cow,” says Anderson. “Wherever you have grazable growth remaining, take advantage of it.”

Extra rain in many areas this summer produced more than the usual amount of growth on range-
land, plus good regrowth on alfalfa and grass hayfields in the state, he says. New summer-annual grass and volunteer winter wheat growth are two other possibilities.

They all can be grazed this fall and winter, although you may need to take some precautions to do it safely. Alfalfa has a slight risk of bloat. Green wheat and grass regrowth might have a tendency to cause grass tetany or respiratory problems if cattle are moved to them from dry, brown pastures without any adaptation. Be careful following a hard freeze, or maybe wait until a few days after a killing freeze before putting animals on lush pasture. Also, many fields may need some temporary fence or have water hauled to them.

“But don’t let these challenges prevent you from using these resources,” says Anderson. “Not only will you get some good-quality, less-expensive feed for your animals, grazing also could be good for the land. Most of the nutrients in the plants will be recycled back to the soil via manure and urine, making them available to support next year’s crop.”