Even though it’s winter, there’s still plenty of pasture work to be done

Stockpiling hay right in the fields during the summer, can extend the grazing season into the winter.

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Wow… the temperatures really did plummet in Ohio just after the New Year began!

Even though we recorded -10 degrees F and winds gusting 25-30 mph for a prolonged period of time, the area where I live did not endure as cold of temperatures as those who live in northern and northwestern Ohio, but it was still plenty cold.

Luckily the polar vortex did not stay here long. Our ground water reserves were fully charged to keep water flowing, so providing water to livestock was not really anything out of the ordinary for winter in our area.

Body condition changing?

With the colder temperatures and calving season upon us, the nutrient requirement for momma cows is soon to be at its peak demand.

The summer of 2013 was a wet one and now we have to do something with all the poor quality hay we made.

Frequent rains made it extremely difficult for producers to get their hay made in a timely manner. It appeared that much more first cutting hay was made in July and August rather than in June in our area. This means nearly all of that hay is lacking the quantity of nutrients cows need to maintain body weight and this would be the absolute worst time for spring calving cows to be losing body condition.

Weak, unhealthy calves, poor quality colostrum milk and reduced conception rates when the bull is turned back in with the cows result when nutrients are lacking.

Have your forage tests?

Here is a rule of thumb for supplementing, from Supplementing Beef Cow Rations, 1993 Minnesota Beef Cow/Calf Report C-112.

For mature late gestation cows, the minimum crude protein (CP) concentration in the forage should be 8 percent. Add 0.5 pounds of soybean meal (or suitable substitute) for every 1 percentage unit below 8 percent.

The minimum total digestible nutrients (TDN) concentration in the forage should be 56 percent. Add 4 pounds of corn ( or suitable substitute) when the TDN concentration of the forage is down to 54 percent and add an additional 0.5 lb. for every 1 percentage unit below 54 percent.

For mature lactating cows, giving 20 pounds of milk, the minimum CP concentration in the forage should be 11 percent. Add 0.5 lb. of soybean meal (or suitable substitute) for every 1 percentage unit CP below 11 percent.

The minimum TDN concentration in the forage should be more than 60 percent TDN. When the TDN concentration is down to 58 percent, provide 5 pounds of corn (or suitable substitute) and increase this amount by 0.5 lb. for every 1 percentage unit down to 54 percent.

Below 54 percent TDN, provide 10 pounds of corn (or suitable substitute) and increase this amount by 0.5 lb. for every 1 percentage unit below 54 percent.

Stockpiled forages to use?

Stockpiling forage in 2013 was relatively easy to do because pastures grew really well all summer and into fall.

Grazing hay fields late in the summer (letting the livestock do the harvest) instead of making hay in those fields, allowed managers to stockpile a tremendous amount of feed in pastures. Some producers are still using this stockpiled grass here in January.

Fertilized fescue stores really well in the field and its quality right now is still much better than the late made first cutting hay from last summer.

Producers with stockpile left could use some of their poor quality hay by feeding a day’s supply of round bales every other day and let the cows alternate between forage supplies.

Presetting round bales when the ground is firm or frozen and restricting use by using temporary electric fence works very well for producers. This eliminates having to start the tractor when conditions are unfavorable. Just move the temporary fence and bale ring(s) when necessary.

Stockpiled fescue forage prepared on well-drained sites not only provides nutritious feed, it can also be an excellent calving area for cows. Thick, dense sod under fescue can support quite a bit of traffic and pressure without causing excessive mud or forage regrowth problems in the spring.

Plastic posts and frozen ground?

Some might question the ability to move temporary fencing during frozen ground conditions. It is a point to consider.

For more information about grazing situations and livestock production, contact any member of the OSU Extension Forage Team. Names and phone numbers are listed on the Forage Team website under the “Directory” tab at http://forages.osu.edu/.

I have found more often, the hardest part of moving temporary fence in the winter is removing a post from frozen ground once the forage has been grazed off, rather than inserting the post into a new position in stockpiled forage.

Soil under stockpiled fescue (or snow) allows for easy post installation in most cases. If the ground is really frozen hard, I can still, most always, find a clump of fescue, other grass or weeds where I can get the post’s spike into the ground far enough to easily hold the post in place.

Post selection also makes a huge difference in frozen ground situations. Step-in posts with a 3/16 inch diameter metal spike work much better than posts with a 3/8 inch diameter metal spike. It doesn’t seem like much, but test for yourself and you will see the difference.

As I mentioned before, removing posts from frozen ground often poses the most problem. The key here is, do not sink the metal spike and the plastic base into the ground as far as you can when the ground is not frozen. Insert the post only the depth of the metal spike. Leave the plastic portion, molded to the metal spike under the foot peg, above the soil line.

This way you can usually twist the post, and or wiggle it, until it comes free even if the ground does freeze.

Another advantage of electric fence.

I often hear producers talk about going to look for a cow that is missing from the group at calving time. While some situations may warrant this, rotational grazing equipment and stockpiled forages allows producers to keep livestock in restricted areas so momma cows are not able to wander far away from the others.

If temporary electric fences are used, you can fence off areas you don’t want the cows to go into so you know right where they will be during calving season. This can really speed up the process of checking cows, especially if you have to do it in the dark with a flashlight after an evening meeting or before daylight when you’re heading off to the day job.

Frost seeding pastures?

The time is quickly approaching when producers should be broadcasting seed if a frost seeding is going to be done.

Part of good seed germination and growth hinge on multiple freezing and thawing cycles of the ground’s surface after seed has been applied so good seed to soil contact occurs.

Many articles have been written, and information about seeding rates is available on the OSU Forage Team website for producers who intend to frost seed this year.

Remember, however, just adding seed to existing stands of forage will not change the productivity of that area for very long, in most cases. Fertility issues, such as pH, may need changed or grazing schemes (most generally rest periods for the forage plants) may need altered to achieve the productivity you desire.

If you don’t change something in the management of frost seeded forages, you seldom get more than what you had before!

About the Author

The author is an Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator in Monroe County, Ohio. More Stories by Mark Landefeld

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