August is the month to begin planning your fall/winter grazing.
By the end of August many practices will have to be implemented in order to maximize forage production.
We often speak of practices that can be implemented on a farm to lower purchased feed and/or forage cost, but implementing the late season grazing program successfully also involves planning where animals need to be any given time of the year and access to water.
Consider the Becherers. The Rocky Ford Ranch, owned by Elmer and Terry Becherer is located in Trenton, Ill.
I have visited with Terry about his grazing system and listened to his presentations at various conferences.
The Becherers utilize forages, both perennial and annual, to provide feed for their 175-head Finn and Dorset sheep operation, which is located on 40 acres.
I’ll briefly describe how they utilize these forages in their “star” lambing system.
They lamb five times a year and their lambing percentage in 2003 averaged over 200 percent each lambing time.
They market 40 to 60 pound lambs in Mount Vernon, Ohio and in 2003 sold more than $38,000 worth of lambs.
Turnips and oats. In the spring turnips and oats are seeded. The oats are seeded at 2-3 bushels per acre.
Pasja, a cross between turnips and rape, is seeded at 4-5 pounds per acre.
They start grazing the oats when they are 8-10 inches tall and graze them down to a height of 2-3 inches. The oats re-grow and are re-grazed.
To stimulate additional growth from the oats, 30 to 40 units of actual nitrogen are sometimes utilized.
Sorghum sudan grass is utilized for summer production. It can be planted in late May or June at 30-50 pounds per acre and they do not graze it until it is approximately 18 inches tall.
The Becherers utilize Brown Midrib sorghum sudan grass.
They have also used pearl millet for summer forage production. They seed this at 35 pounds per acre and find the sheep prefer pearl millet to the sorghum family.
Pearl millet also does not cause prussic acid poisoning after being frost injured.
Winter annuals. The Becherers also utilize winter annuals in their grazing program.
Spring oats and turnips are planted in mid to late August at a rate of 2 bushels of oats per acre and 2-3 pounds of turnips per acre.
The oats/turnip pastures are strip grazed in the fall utilizing step-in posts and a single electric wire.
Cereal rye is also utilized for mid- to late-winter grazing and again in the spring.
The cereal rye is planted in September at 100 pounds per acre. Annual ryegrass is also planted in September at 30 pounds per acre and provides two grazings in the fall and spring.
The perennial pastures on this farm are utilized for grazing, hay production, and stockpiling.
Grasses. The cool season grasses consist of orchard grass and novel endophyte fescues.
The legume component of their perennial pasture is white clover.
The Rocky Ford Sheep Ranch utilizes annual forage in combination with perennial pastures to extend their grazing season and maximize production on limited acres.
While these forages and management practices may not be suitable for all operations, perhaps you can adapt some of these practices to your farm.
(The author is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources educator in Guernsey County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)