How to extend your grazing season to avoid feeding hay early

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

For the most part, it has been a good grazing season. We had a lot of rain in August when the grass growth has usually slowed down. September and October were very dry but the abundant grass growth in August kept the pastures looking good.

Now that we are in November, I am starting to see hay being fed. Some farms have stockpiled grass and some are still able to send their livestock through their rotations again.

Every day you are not feeding hay is a day when you are saving money. Whether you make your hay or buy it, it is a big expense for the farm.


Stockpiling grass is a good way to extend the grazing season. Livestock should be excluded from the field you want to stockpile after mid-July to allow the forages to have adequate rest to grow as much tonnage as possible.

Fescue is the best forage for stockpiling. It holds its nutrient value into the winter. The sugar content goes up after the first hard frost as well. The livestock can start grazing the stockpile when the permanent pastures are grazed down.

In a year where we have low rainfall in the fall months, you may have to turn the livestock into the stockpile early. This will give a chance for the other pastures to rest and grow back to be grazed again.

Hayfields are another option to stockpile and let the livestock graze them in the fall. This can be beneficial to the soil and is also a fuel savings. Instead of taking another cutting and removing nutrients, the cattle can graze and return most of those nutrients back to the soil.

Grazing of the hayfields should not be too late in the fall and should not be overgrazed. If there is not adequate cover on the field going into winter the forage stand may suffer and the next year’s hay yield can be reduced.

Bale grazing

You can also bale graze in the field you have stockpiled. Bales should be placed about 30 feet apart. Temporary electric fence can be used to limit the number of bales and stockpile the livestock have access to at one time.

This method of feeding hay eliminates ruts and reduces mud since you do not use a tractor to feed. The manure from the livestock and the wasted hay does not have to be hauled with a manure spreader. There will be more hay wasted feeding this way compared to using bale rings or a feed pad.

If you think you may run out before the grazing season starts again, it may not be the best year to start bale grazing.


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Wyatt Feldner is the Agricultural Technician for the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District.



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