Missouri producers who feed their livestock hay this fall – rather than allowing them to graze grass being rejuvenated by recent rains – will be ahead of the game this winter. So say University of Missouri Extension forage and beef specialists Rob Kallenbach and Justin Sexten, respectively.

Cows turned into pastures now will nip off grass as it grows, Kallenbach says. That harms pastures already stunted by summer-long drought. “It’s tempting to turn cows onto new fall growth when rains return after a drought,” he says. But allowing pastures to rebuild root reserves will prepare grass for strong growth the next spring.

Grass stockpiled for winter use will produce more yield and contain more nutrition than hay would provide. “Cows will need that higher-quality grass when the weather turns cold,” Sexten says.

“Feeding hay in fall is easier than in winter,” he adds. “This winter, cows will harvest the stockpiled grass pasture. You don’t have to start your tractor.”

Pastures that didn’t grow for months during drought will be in weak condition and need renovation as well as recovery time, Kallenbach warns. “Likely there are bare spots and more weeds. That adds to reduced productivity on pastures recovering from drought.”

Interseeding another grass variety into a weakened stand isn’t recommended – vigorous new growth shades and further weakens surviving grass, the Missouri specialists say.

Completely renovate if grass covers less than 75% of the ground, Kallenbach says. That can take a year if converting from toxic endophyte-infected Kentucky 31 to new novel-endophyte fescues that don’t contain toxins.