Detailed farm record analysis have shown reducing winter feed costs can have a dramatic impact on farm profitability.
Stockpiling is one method to reduce the need for purchased feed and forage and at the same time improve forage quality.
How it works. To stockpile, producers should have timed the last harvest or grazing to approximately July 31.
Select a field to be used for late season grazing - access to water, high, dry, south or southeastern-facing slope - and apply 50 units of actual nitrogen per acre to the orchardgrass or fescue pasture.
If the weather cooperates, the practice can produce an extra 2,000 pounds of forage to be grazed.
The forage response to the nitrogen application is in part due to the period of time the grass will have to grow after the nitrogen application.
Still time. Studies conducted at the Eastern Ohio Resource Development Center in Belle Valley and on-farm in Guernsey County have revealed the best time to apply the nitrogen to be near Aug. 1.
If it rains within a few days of a nitrogen application made at this time it is reasonable to expect a forage response.
If you missed your chance to begin stockpiling, it may not be too late. When the nitrogen is applied later in the year, in September and October, the yield response can be lower than the August application.
Real life. Consider this example: If hay is worth $35 per ton, how much forage must I produce to pay for the stockpiling cost?
If it costs $25 per acre to apply 50 units of nitrogen, the tonnage times $35 per ton equals $25 per acre equals .714 tons or 1,428 pounds.
You need to grow 1,428 pounds of forage to cover the cost of your fertilizer to make this practice economical.
If you are renting the ground this figure could be higher.
Make it pay. To make stockpiling pay and to save on feed cost we need the yield response.
Plan your stockpiling strategy well. Producers should be prepared to apply the nitrogen sometime in August and prior to a rain shower, when possible. Set the area aside and allow it to grow until needed this winter or fall.
For more information contact Clif Little at 740-432-9300.
(The author is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent in Guernsey County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)