Rather than feed expensive grain with poor hay, substitute it with high-quality grass, suggests Justin Sexten, University of Missouri Extension beef nutritionist. All it takes is wise use of a single-strand electric fence.

Rather than turning cows into the pasture, he urges fencing off a strip of fresh grass each day for them to graze using a movable electric fence. Then unroll low-quality baled hay near the grass strip. After the cows eat the preferred grass, they will eat the less-nutritious hay.

Grain, byproduct feeds or grass will provide needed protein. The grass also contains high levels of energy, which poor hay lacks.

Tall fescue, the most widely used grass in Missouri, is well-suited for stockpiling for winter feed, Sexten says.

Although most Missouri pastures grew little grass during this summer’s prolonged drought, many locations pastures revived with fall rains starting with remnants of Hurricane Isaac, he says.

But don’t turn cows onto an undivided pasture of high-quality stockpiled grass, Sexten warns.

“Without controlled grazing, cows waste about 40% of the grass. They’ll walk on it, sleep on it or worse. With restricted grazing, they’ll eat most of the grass without stopping to do those other things. It would be a terrible waste to turn cows in on such high-quality feed.”

Sexten teaches forage nutrition at three-day grazing schools at the MU Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus. The grazing schools also teach producers how to measure and estimate the amount of dry-matter content available in an acre of grass. This allows producers to calculate forage rations to meet livestock nutrient needs.

For information on grazing schools, contact county MU Extension centers or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices.