Winter Stockpile Grazing Part 5 – The Weather Trumps Planning

Editors Note: It takes a brave person to share his successes, challenges and stresses online with all of us. That's what Troy has been doing this fall and winter as he writes about custom grazing dairy heifers on his stockpiled pastures. We're grateful for Troy sharing his progress with all of us so that when we want to try this, we can stand on his shoulders and get a boost to success. If you haven't seen the whole series, here it is. This update chronicles December 22nd to December 28.  Let's start with the chart and a few pictures so you can see what's happening on the ground. The staging of the big bales while it was frozen was a great strategy cause it got rainy and warm last week and would have been a muddy nightmare trying to get around. You might be asking, why feed hay when you can see the stockpile again?  Well, here are some reasons:  The 140 day old, cool season, sward smashed by wet snow is like me being at the salad bar with a bu

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4 thoughts on “Winter Stockpile Grazing Part 5 – The Weather Trumps Planning

  1. I’ve stockpiled grazed, I planted stuff for winter grazing all trying to get the hay out of the budget and graze as many days of the year as possible.

    The weather wins over time. Many seasons I’ve left 45 days of more of forage on these fields only to have them snow covered by an early December blizzard, followed by warmer weather the melt and re-freeze the snow into an icy mass that cattle nor sheep can bust through.

    We could have run a few more AU by not stockpiling. Our most expensive feed is that which we pay to grow and then do not utilize. My current forage budgets takes me to Christmas, about 50% of the time I’m right and 50% I do not get to use this feed.

    We need to learn how to graze more days in northern climates, which includes stockpiling perennials and growing specific species, but we also need to be cognizant of our local climate condition and when grazing will most likely be over.

    We also need to consider the relationship between purchased forage costs and value of our product. Which currently favors running more head and purchasing cheap forage over reducing the stocking rate and grazing longer.

    1. I have been grazing cattle out through the winters in MT on stockpiled forage for years. With few exceptions I have been able to herd the cattle into tighter groups so that the hoof action will actually breakup the crust either snow or ice. By spending a little more time in the saddle and not using the fences as our herder and actually doing it ourselves we have been able to successfully winter bred cows and yearlings and maintain body condition with only winter grass and protein supplements. Moving the supplements weekly as you re-ration those supplements helps change the movement patterns in the pastures as well, which results in more of that stockpiled forage getting churned up by the hooves. May not work for you, but has worked for us. Hang in there.

      1. Thanks William. How high is the forage growth in your area and what kind of weather are you dealing with? GW

    2. Gene, Your sentiment and experience are wise. I really like your last paragraph and “Our most expensive feed is that which we pay to grow and then do not utilize”.
      I am thinking about alternatives and approaches in our climate. I would love a program where I could skip Nov. 15th to December 15th weather here and go back to grazing after. It seems January lately is cold, frozen and the snow is drier which lends better to grazing stockpile. If I had the stockpile (or maybe deferred grazing it) I could be grazing right now with no problems but then I would come under the 50% rule if I planned to do this most likely. Much pondering to do and I think I’ll look back at my old grazing charts to see if there might be a trend in weather and planning where I might be able to find some solutions and still be fair to my grazing customer. Thanks for your input. GW

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