Want To Extend Grazing Season?

This article appeared in the August 2001 issue of the "West Virginia Farm Bureau News, WVU Update."

Ed Rayburn
Forage Agronomist
WVU Extension Service

Do you want.to extend the grazing season this year? Here are a few management tips to help you do so.

  1. Select a pasture or hay field and graze or hay it off by late July or mid-August.
  2. Apply 50 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre using ammonia nitrate, ammonia sulfate, or urea. If a recent soil test indicates that soil phosphorus is low, using diammonia phosphate DAP) at 100 to 200 pounds per acre will provide 18 to 36 pounds of nitrogen and 46 to 92 pounds of phosphate.
  3. Keep livestock out of the field until late October to early December, depending largely on when other pasture is grazed off and when your animals need the feed.
  4. If the field has predominantly orchardgrass or bluegrass, start grazing in October or November so that it will be eaten off before early December. These grasses are killed by freezing weather, and they brown down to where cattle will not eat them well past early December. Smooth bromegrass and reeds canarygrass are even more sensitive than orchardgrass to freezing and should be grazed off earlier.
  5. Tall fescue can be grazed from December through March, depending on when your animals need it. Strip grazing will allow you to get the most grazing days from an area of stockpiled grass. Give the animals only enough area to feed them for three to six days. If stockpiled tall fescue has been fertilized with nitrogen, its crude protein content will be adequate for beef cattle in December and January. If no nitrogen fertilizer is used or if there is a lot of rainy weather in December and January, the animals may need a protein supplement when grazing fescue in February and March. Forage testing and knowing your animal's feed requirement will tell if and how much supplemental protein is needed.

More detailed information on stockpiling tall fescue for winter grazing can be found in the WVU Extension service fact sheet "Tall Fescue Management" available from your county Extension agent or on the Web ( http://www.caf.wvu.edu/~forage/tallfesc.htm ).