Set a table of grass

Much like he does during the day at his UPS package job, Mitch Baltz delivers — with feed his cattle can use.

In the past few years, the Lawrence County, Ark., cattleman has been setting a table of grass before his 43 cow-calf pairs. The result: A decrease in haying and supplemental feeding during most of the year through rotational grazing, strip-grazing and stockpiling forages.

Producers will get a chance to see prescribed grazing in action at a University of Arkansas Forage Field Day at the Baltz place on May 12. Supper is included.

With a program the University of Arkansas calls 300 Days of Grazing, Baltz is using what program coordinator Kenny Simon describes as a “cookbook” designed to help producers utilize what they have to reduce reliance on fuel, fertilizer and feed.

The program aims to help cattle producers keep their herds on pasture through most of the winter, thus reducing the cost of feeding hay.

Key Points

Arkansas cattle producer has success with grazing.

300 Days of Grazing program helps producers reduce costs.

“They’re ready to move to the next pasture,” says Mitch Baltz.

For Baltz, that’s meant working closely with UA agriculture experts like Simon, forage specialist John Jennings and Lawrence County Extension agent Bryce Baldridge.

Jennings says the starting point is evaluating the feeding capacity of your pastures and whether you have enough to graze spring, summer, fall and winter.

The 300 Days of Grazing program requires a change in mind-set. “It may even require feeding some hay in the summer months in a drought situation,” Jennings says. “By planning ahead one season, you give yourself another set of options, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.”

Baltz has followed the recommendation to think one season ahead. He stockpiles bermuda-grass starting in August and fescue in September. The pastures are split into separate paddocks with polywire and step-in posts. Cool-season grasses are grazed no more than three days before resting them.

He’s not against putting up hay. He just prefers not walking out in the cold of a winter’s morning to feed hay to his cattle.Last year’s drought required 40 days of feeding for the cattle, but Baltz focused on building fertility and managing the herd’s water supply and reproductive schedule.

While using a mix of bermudagrass and fescue in his fields, Baltz has also planted both red and white clover. Introducing a nitrogen-fixing legume like clover into the mix will eventually make fertilizer unnecessary — an environmentally sustainable practice. He’s also overseeded ryegrass into pastures to provide grazing in between seasons for his cattle.

In late March, Baltz took a walk through his pasture to discuss bringing cattle to the grass. He uses polywire to move the cows and calves from paddock to paddock, giving the pastures time to rest and grow.

“The cattle are easy to handle on grass,” Baltz said. “They follow me on the four-wheeler and are ready to move to the next field. I love to move them to the clover in the afternoon after their bellies are full.”


PASTURES APLENTY: Mitch Baltz, who farms near Powhatan, Ark., says his pastures are the foundation for his cattle herd.

This article published in the May, 2011 edition of MID-SOUTH FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.