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Winter Grazing – A Better Way to Feed

By   /  August 5, 2013  /  3 Comments

While the grasshopper is enjoying the summer, the ant is always getting ready for the winter. Typically graziers and all producers are the ants, working away to make sure livestock and their communities will have food for the whole year. Still, there’s no reason that the life of an ant can’t be made a little easier and more profitable. This video describes how stockpiling and then strip grazing through the winter can save you time and money while improving your pastures.

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Brad Storie, Cattle Producer, is happy he started winter grazing on his farm.

Brad Storie, Cattle Producer, is happy he started winter grazing on his farm.

You’ve heard of stockpiling forage for grazing through the winter.  But now, with prices for harvesting hay averaging $78 per ton, and diesel fuel prices increasing, more producers are considering this option for maintaining their livestock through the winter.  You might be like Brad Storie, who introduces himself as a “Beef Cattle/Hay producer” who said, “Haying is getting more and more expensive.  I had to look for other options because of the economic factor.”

In addition to saving money on equipment, fuel, and labor, graziers who stockpile have also found that their cattle do better in this system.  That’s because stockpiled forage is nutritionally better than hay.   Beef producer Johnny Rogers says, “One of the reasons we like stockpiling is because from a nutritional standpoint it’s just simply better than hay.  If you do a side by ide nutritional analysis you’ll see just about any component you want to look at, the stockpile is going to have an advantage over dry hay.”  Tests show Total Digestible Nutrients at 70% in stockpile to 59% in hay and crude protein in stockpile at 15% compared to 11 % or less in hay.

Even when the Woodward farm had 30 inches of snow in 55 days, cattle did fine.  Also did well when the snow iced over.  They pawed and broke the crust.  Cows are in as good a shape as I've ever had them at this time of year.

Even when the Woodward farm had 30 inches of snow in 55 days, cattle did fine. Also did well when the snow iced over. They pawed and broke the crust. Cows are in as good a shape as I’ve ever had them at this time of year.

Brad Storie agrees saying that at the end of the winter his cattle look better than they ever have in the past.  After turning to stockpiling forage and then strip grazing it through the winter, he says, “The hay that I have made, I’m not going to make again because I’ve seen this system work.”  He highly recommends the system to other farmers and ranchers saying, “The biggest thing is it’s going to be a big improvement for your pastures and your cattle.”

His comment about improved pastures is based on improved manure and nutrient distribution. Stockpile grazing means being able to recycle nitrogen and phosphorous.  In fact, just 25 cows can excrete the fertilizer equivalent of 1200-300-1000 lbs over 4 months.

To learn more about stockpiling and strip grazing and it’s benefits, check out this great video from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s East Nation Technology Support Center.  Then be sure to check with your local NRCS office or your extension service staff to find out about how your pasture’s forages can be used for stockpiling.  Even if you can’t start to make changes this year, it can get you on the road to planning for the future.

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About the author

editor and contributor

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she’s not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

3 Comments

  1. I dug up an answer on the powerflex site. Basically, I need to provide 2.5-3% of my cow’s bodyweight per day. That gives me what I need for a jumping off point.

  2. Not taking away from the article which was good, that video was great. I’m glad you included it.

    I would ask, are there any suggestions for number of acres to begin stockpiling in August? I have heard Greg Judy suggest setting 1/3rd of the farm aside and he’s in the same climate with the same forage as is on our farm. But, is there a rule of thumb of acres/head based on frost dates or expected snow cover duration?

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