Defer Subtropical And Tropical Grasses For Winter Feed

The Grazier's Art

Even in tropical environments, forage can be stockpiled for effective winter feeding.

Published on: July 25, 2013
 

Due to their highly seasonal production, the growth curve of subtropical and tropical grasses has to be managed to allow for year-around grazing.

We can rotationally graze a portion of the ranch or farm in the summer, the rainy season, while leaving the rest of the farm as stockpile or deferred pasture for the non-growing season.

The portion to graze in the growing season will depend on the number of cattle and the production; we would return to our first paddock when it is ready, regardless of where we are in the rotation.

By doing this we assure that the grass quality will be high, meaning low fiber, high energy, as it will not be over-mature.

Watch it! Manure piles when grazing stockpiled tropical grasses in winter should be two to four inches high and have the fiber totally digested with no big pieces.
Watch it! Manure piles when grazing stockpiled tropical grasses in winter should be two to four inches high and have the fiber totally digested with no big pieces.

The portion which is left ungrazed will be deferred for the non-growing season. It should be rationed out with ultra-high-density grazing, with from four to six breaks per day.

It is highly advisable that cows be done with calving and bred, as our goal now is only to maintain condition. To be effective we need to supplement what is missing in our stockpiled forages. In the species we are talking about – bermudagrass, Bahia grass, African Star, Pangola – the most deficient will be mostly protein and minerals after the first frost, due to their quality being lower from being over-mature.

By doing this stockpile strategy we do not need to put up and feed hay as we are feeding standing hay. This will save good money on haying and hay purchases.

In higher latitudes, due to lower fiber, the animals can compensate for the low protein by over eating but with theses tropical grasses at lower latitudes the animal cannot overeat enough to maintain body condition. Even in higher latitudes it may make economic sense to provide a protein-meal supplement to increase efficiency or carrying capacity

By watching the manure we can tell if we are feeding enough protein in said situation. It should not stack up but be around two to four inches high and have the fiber totally digested without containing big pieces.

It is also advisable to measure the pH of the urine, with around 7 being optimum. If below 6.5 it means the animal needs more protein.

By stockpiling tropical grasses, calving in sync with nature and feeding rumen stimulants we can have better sustainable profits.