Winter Swath Grazing Works

This article comes to us from the USDA's Ag Research Magazine and was written by Don Comis. Swath grazing is a way to revive the once widespread practice of letting cattle graze all winter in the Northern Plains. With swath grazing, farmers pile crop residue into rows, known as “swaths,” that stand as high as 16 inches. Cattle can usually push with ease through up to 2 feet of snow to graze on these crop residues or other high quality forages. Northern Plains farmers and ranchers largely gave up the historical practice of grazing cattle on pastures or rangelands year-round in the late 1800s, after two severe winters caused extensive cattle losses from blizzards and a lack of reserve feed supplies. But swath grazing, backed up by supplemental harvested grain, saves farmers money and labor compared to feeding cows hay in a corral near a barn during winter. A Quarter Per Cow, Per Day Soil scientist Don Tanaka and colleagues at the ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, North Dakota, conducted a

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