Extend Your Grazing Season By Stockpiling Forage – Part 1

There are two different ways to feed your livestock with stockpiled forage over the winter. One way is to make hay or silage and then feed it to livestock over the winter. This can be quite expensive. The other option, which is much more economical, is to leave the forage in pasture where it stands, and let the livestock graze it through the winter. If you're planning to do this, now is the time to start thinking about what you've got in your pasture, how it will respond to stockpiling, and how you will manage your livestock so you can grow enough forage for the winter months. I've gathered information from a variety of sources to help you get started. Check the end of this article for links to these resources. What Can be Stockpiled? Almost any forage can be stockpiled, though some grasses work better than others. Tall fescue is one of the best stockpile forages. It grows well into the late summer and fall to provide lots of biomass and its stiff, waxy leaves hold up well through the winter. In a study in Wisconsin looking at 7 different forages, researchers found that tall fescue and early-maturing orchard grass performed the best, followed by late-

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4 thoughts on “Extend Your Grazing Season By Stockpiling Forage – Part 1

  1. Kathy here are my two cents:
    I start thinking about stockpiling as soon as I start grazing in the spring. My goal is to get as many paddocks clipped as possible. To accomplish this, I do not strip graze. The herd is given the whole paddock to wander & graze as they like. There will be plants that do not get clipped on each rotation, however, my goal is to have good quality, high volume forage in November and beyond.
    Since I stopped strip grazing during the growing season and went to giving the animals the whole paddock, my stockpiled grass has improved in quality & volume. At the latitude where most of my grazing experience has taken place, Central Alberta, forage you want to stockpile needs to be set aside by about August 7. Decreasing daylight hours seem to reach a tipping point the first week of August. Which means, grass clipped after August 7 does not have enough sunshine to produce the significant volume I am looking for so that animals can graze through snow in December & January.
    To achieve good quality stockpile, I start clipping the paddocks chosen for stockpiling about July 20. In my perfect world, I would have all the stockpiling paddocks clipped on August 1, get rid of 50% of our animals, and continue grazing on the rest of our paddocks. Of course it doesn’t work that way so we do what we can.
    My report card for the year is the feed test I get done in mid-November. If the TDN is above 60% and protein is 12-15% I have done a good job and I give myself a gold star!lol

    1. I forgot to mention that my goal for volume of harvested stock pile is at least 150 stock days per acre (3600lbs DM). By harvested I mean what is taken by the livestock and not the 30%r that is left in the paddock after grazing.

  2. The feed value in legumes is primarily in the leaves, after a hard freeze these will eventually fall from the stem. In Wisconsin, red clover looses leaves before alfalfa which is before trefoil.

    In planning my stockpile grazing I start in that order. In heavy snow pack tall fescue is hard to beat, smooth brome tends to lay flat and orchardgrass is in intermediate.

    Our reed canary grass is awful for stockpiling, it turns yellow and bitter late in the year and livestock will not graze it. Not sure why others have a better experience.

    Currently I’ve been utilizing Big Bluestem as a winter stockpile feed for beef cows.

  3. Most of our pastures are a mix of hill-sides and waterways. Are we better off stockpiling the slopes or the waterways?
    We are located in MN, so our growing season ends in late September/early October and the ground *should be* frozen in December.

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