UH-OH! I’m running out of grass! What should I do?

First off, let's not panic.  You have options for stretching your forage supply.  One or a combination of the options below could improve forage utilization and your production. While these suggestions are best for folks in my neck of the woods (Tennessee) by contacting your local NRCS or Conservation District, or your extension agent, you'll be able to figure out which of these can be adapted to your environment and needs. Change your rotations to let grass regrow. You can start by combining your herd and restricting them to one paddock (field) until other paddocks re-grow.  If you carry on with your rotations into pastures that haven't had adequate time for regrowth, you'll further slow recovery and could even kill your grass. When forage has recovered to five inches or taller you can move them into other pastures.  When heading back to rotation, limit pasture size to four days or less of forage at a time.  This typically increases forage utilization by 20% or more. Graze fields traditionally used for fall hay. This is a particularly good option when you consider harvest efficiency for both hay and strip grazing is typically 70%. That means you get the same utilization without the cost of making hay! (Note that if you don't strip graze, utilization will drop to 50% efficiency.) Save on the high costs of fuel and let your cattle harvest the forage for you. Wean early and let calves creep. Weaning will reduce stress on the cow, so she'll eat less, and you'll ext

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2 thoughts on “UH-OH! I’m running out of grass! What should I do?

  1. enjoyed reading this thanks! Sounds like good advice to me. We don’t fertilize because we’re cheap…unless you count the round bales we buy and feed out over the winter along with our stockpiled forages. Wherever we feed those bales we have an much improved sward come the next year.

  2. I live in Nebraska, therefore our droughts are a lot drier than they are in Tennessee.
    The advice to use nitrogen fertilizer does not sound wise on many counts.

    My neighbor used fertilizer on his meadow and because of the drought, it just burned it up and he did not have any to put up. Nitrogen can burn the roots when there isn’t enough moisture to utilize it properly.

    Next we run into the issue of nitrate accumulation in the forage. This can be deadly to your livestock. If you use nitrogen fertilizer and there isn’t enough moisture to properly utilize it, the nitrate will accumulate in the lower parts of the plants to cause serious problems to livestock eating it.

    Nitrogen fertilizer increases tonnage, but not necessary feed. If only nitrogen is used, many of the amino acids will be deficient even though the test for crude protein will show good protein levels. The problem is that crude protein is only a multiplier of the nitrogen in the forage and not the balance of actual amino acids. Proteins are only as good as to the availability of the deficient amino acid. Amino acids that cannot be used needs to be broken down and voided using up energy that could be used for other purposes ( the no carb diet).

    The best part of the forage is usually the top 6 inches. The extra growth you get will be fiber bulk. Yes, you have more tonnage to sell, but not necessary anymore feed for gain and health.

    Even though here in Nebraska we have a lower annual precipitation, I have noticed the difference between wet years and dry years. The cattle perform better in the dry years since the nutrient density is greater. It is hard to maintain high nutrient density in forage when there is an abundance of moisture and not the fertility to go with it. The plants with plenty of moisture will reuse the nutrients that it can, by removing them from the older parts of the plant. This causes us to have more tonnage, but no more nutrients than when we started. When you use extra nitrogen fertilizer and the plants grows more, any other nutrient that is deficient will also be reused in the plant. Once again, extra growth, but not extra nutrients.

    Proper rotation and rest is the best defense against drought. Building deep roots helps reach more moisture and more nutrients. Build up of organic matter increases water infiltration and water holding capacity of the soil. More organic matter increases nutrient capacity and bio activity that releases bond nutrients and makes them available to plants. Some of this is covered in The $200 Cover Crop Bump. http://onpasture.com/2014/06/30/the-200-cover-crop-bump/

    “Now, when he takes soil tests, he finds the organic matter in the soil has increased from less than 2% into the 3% range and climbing. He’s also seeing phosphorus and potassium (P and K) going up, without having added any himself. “

  3. I have 8 – 1200 pound round bales remaining from my winter feed and feed it while allowing the stock to also graze in a 1/4 size pasture allowing for regrowth of grasses.
    Those 8 bales should last around two months and by then I should have enough grass to cover the remaining summer season here in Northwestern Montana to keep my grass growing for the next graze.

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