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Stockpiling for Winter Grazing – Reasons and How-To’s

By   /  August 3, 2020  /  2 Comments

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We first shared this article and video in August of 2013, just a few months after we started On Pasture. So chances are good that most of you haven’t seen it. You really should though. Yes, it is a little longer than most that I give you. But this 16:47 minutes is like taking a pasture walk to learn all about stockpiling – from the benefits of doing it to some good how-to’s for getting started

Here are the quick take home messages you’ll find:

Stockpiling forages and then grazing through the winter saves a lot of money!
Put all the costs of making hay all summer behind you, including equipment, fuel to run it, and your own labor. 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.”

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.

Worried about snow and ice? Even when the Woodward farm had 30 inches of snow in 55 days, cattle did fine. They also did well when the snow iced over. They pawed and broke the crust. Farmer Bob Woodward says, “The cows are in as good a shape as I’ve ever had them at this time of year.”

Cattle do better on stockpiled forages.
These producers found that winter grazing cattle were healthier. 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 side nutritional analysis…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.

Stockpiling means better nutrient distribution.
Keeping cattle on pasture through the winter means you keep their manure and urine there too, doing their job of recycling nitrogen and phosphorous. In fact, just 25 cows can excrete the fertilizer equivalent of 1200-300-1000 lbs over 4 months.

Brad Storie sums up how each of the producers in this video feel about the switch to stockpiling: “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.”

There are lots of different ways to go about stockpiling and we’re trying to share as many different examples as we can. One option for finding out what works best in your area is to contact your local Natural Resouces Conservation Service or Conservation District office. And remember, even if you can’t start to make changes this year, any planning and learning you do today can get you down the road to beginning next grazing season.

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Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.

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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

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.

2 Comments

  1. Mary Beth says:

    That must be nice to have 4 inches of snow to deal with at a time, probably melts before the next dose. what’s the possibility of cows grazing thru 24 ” of snow from 2 or 3 storms over the course of 3 or 4 weeks. I’m in VT and have only been able to bale graze in our winters. I wonder if I would have to start stockpiling at the end of June. MB

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Mary Beth,
      I think the article we published on the 17th gives answers to your question about grazing through heavier snow and ice. Here’s a link to that one. We’re also publishing another tomorrow (August 24th) that I think will help. Both the article on August 17th and the one being published tomorrow are based on the experiences of graziers in Canada who have snow experience similar to yours.

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