Quality Grazing Supplements Low-Quality Hay

Beef-herd owners learn to use fall grass to supplement drought stricken hay

Published on: Nov 8, 2012

Don't waste good grass growth this fall, a University of Missouri nutritionist tells cow-herd owners. Use it as supplement for low-quality hay.

Justin Sexten, with MU Extension, says high-quality grass can replace high-priced grain to be fed with poor hay. All it takes is wise use of a single-strand electric fence.

In talks across the state, Sexten tells beef producers how to cut costs on winter-feeding. The "after-drought" meetings help herd owners keep their cows.

Sexten urges cattle producers to look at low-cost alternatives, such as byproduct feeds.

Cattle need protein supplement when feeding poor-quality forage.
Cattle need protein supplement when feeding poor-quality forage.

Producers have learned to stockpile pasture growth for grazing after frost stops growth for the winter.

There's never enough stockpiled forage, Sexten says. The best use is to parcel it out as a supplement to improve use of available hay.

Nutrient quality of fall stockpiled pasture will be higher than most hay baled during the prolonged summer drought. Quality tests show low levels of crude protein and energy in hay.

Sexten says hay that tests less than 7% crude protein needs supplemental feed to keep cows' rumens working efficiently.

Forage tests on stockpiled fescue grass show 15 to 17% crude protein. That's more than what's needed to maintain cows, Sexten says.

Sexten outlines a plan he will use with the cow herd at the MU Beef Research Center, Columbia. Like most producers this year, he has plenty of poor-quality hay that needs supplements.

He also has a good stand of fall stockpiled grass.

Starting the first of November, instead of turning cows into the pasture, he will fence off a strip of fresh grass each day for cows to graze. A movable electric fence will be used.