Quality Grazing Supplements Low-Quality Hay

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

Published on: Nov 8, 2012

The fresh grass provides needed supplemental nutrients. Low-quality baled hay will be unrolled near the grass strip. After the cows eat the preferred grass, they will eat the less nutritious hay.

The process is repeated each day.

Cows take poor-quality forage into their rumen, the stomach for digesting fiber. However, microbes in the rumen that digest fiber must have at least 7% crude protein to keep working. Protein supplement can come from grain, byproduct feeds or grass. The grass also contains high levels of energy, which poor hay lacks.

The use of a hot-wire fence in management-intensive grazing improves efficient use of pasture grasses.

Tall fescue, the most widely used grass in Missouri, is well-suited for stockpiling for winter feed.

This past summer most Missouri pastures grew little grass during the prolonged drought. However, in many locations pastures revived with fall rains starting with remnants of Hurricane Isaac.

"With high-quality stockpiled grass, cows should not be turned into an undivided pasture," Sexten says. "Without controlled grazing, cows waste about 40% of the grass. They'll walk on it, sleep on it or worse. With restricted grazing, they'll eat most of the grass without stopping to do those other things.

"It would be a terrible waste to turn cows in on such high-quality feed."

Sexten teaches forage nutrition at the three-day grazing schools at the MU Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus, Mo. That school trains the trainers for regional grazing schools held across the state each year.

The grazing schools also teach producers how to both measure and estimate the amount of dry-matter content available in an acre of grass. This allows calculation of forage rations to meet livestock nutrient needs.

For information on grazing schools, contact county MU Extension centers or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices.

Winter meetings and grazing schools are an extension of research from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Source: University of Missouri Extension