This might be a good year to stockpile pasture grasses for grazing next winter, suggests Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage agronomist.
Due to abundant moisture and recent warm weather, some cow-calf producers probably have more pasture growth than they need, he says. Mowing and baling the extra growth is good if you need the hay. Other times, cattle are allowed to graze what they want and the excess is left in the field. That often results in good weaning weights and gains but can cause next year's pasture to be full of dead litter from this year.
Saving some of that growth for wintertime grazing is a better option, says Anderson. You won’t need to make as much hay this summer and you’ll need to feed less of it next winter. Also, stockpiling in summer and fall followed by winter grazing is one of the best methods to improve the health of your grasslands.
If you have some run-down, low-producing pastures, those often are the best candidates for winter grazing. Grasses that need invigorating will be strengthened by not grazing them during the growing season. Winter grazing will clean off much of the frozen growth during winter. Cattle even eat some plants like yucca and ragweed during winter that they won't hardly touch during summer. You'll need some protein supplements, but cattle do a pretty good job of picking high-quality plant parts to eat while winter grazing.
“Extra growth is an opportunity to both reduce winter feed costs and improve pasture condition,” says Anderson. “Get it by winter grazing.”