Because of hot, dry summer, this will be an interesting fall for grazing

By Tom Noyes

By the time you read this column it will be September and fall will be just about here.

I don’t know where the summer went but I’m happy to see the hot weather gone and a return of moisture. This will bring about an interesting fall for grazing management.

On most farms this summer everything stopped growing except alfalfa. Most pastures went into dormancy like it was winter.

Green fall. Now that cooler temperatures and moisture have returned we will have a fall flush of grass just like it was May all over again. However, there will be one exception and that is it will not last as long.

The reason is because we are now entering the time of year that daylight hours are rapidly getting shorter so plant regrowth will be to slow. Nevertheless, enjoy the spring flush while we have it.

Adjustment. This fall flush will mean some adjustments will need to be made in the rations. You can expect the crude protein of this new grass (just like in May) to be 24 percent to 28 percent crude protein on a dry matter basis.

Depending on what other feeds are fed you might want to take out protein with the exception of a small amount of bypass protein.

Just like in the spring, the fiber levels will be low. You can expect neutral detergent fibers to run in the mid-30s so some supplemental long fiber may be worthwhile to maintain fat test.

I am sure that for most of you who were out of grass for a large part of the summer you will want to extend the grazing season as long as possible this fall. To help increase grass growth this fall there is still time to put on a fertilizer application.

Putting on 25-30 pounds of actual nitrogen will pay by producing additional grass growth that will last longer this fall.

How to extend. Extending the grazing season can also be accomplished by supplementing with other forage and grain. Cows need to be transitioned to winter barn feeding anyway so just begin a little sooner.

Now that the days are getting cooler and shorter hours of daylight start keeping cows in once we get into October. Cows will not do a lot of grazing during the night once the nights become cooler and days shorter.

So leave them in the barn with the lights on to keep the dry matter intake.

This will be the fall not to overgraze your pastures. The plants have been stressed severely with the hot dry summer. Give them a chance to recover before they go dormant this winter.

Getting through winter. A fertilizer application with a complete fertilizer (low in nitrogen) will help the plant build reserves to get them through the winter and be ready to go next spring. This is a practice that gold course managers use to encourage an early green up in the spring.

We will continue these grazing columns during the winter months, which will give us the opportunity to tell you about our winter grazing schools and conferences.

We look forward to seeing you at some of these events.

(The author is a dairy agent for OSU Extension in Wayne County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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