Stockpiling forages for fall and winter pasture

“Stockpiling” pastures allows cattle producers to take advantage of late summer and early fall growing conditions to obtain high quality forage for late fall and early winter grazing. If you pay attention to a few management details, you’ll be able to use stockpiled pastures to provide quality forage late in the fall and into the winter.

Under our growing conditions, Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue both serve as good candidates for winter stockpiling. The stockpiling period runs from early August through early November, so remove cattle during this period to allow grass growth. Stockpiled forage comes from new grass growth, so mow or graze grasses to 3 or 4 inches before stockpiling. Of course good soil fertility is necessary to maximize stockpiled grass production. Add phosphorus, potassium, and lime based on a recent soil test. Hopefully you applied Nitrogen in August to minimize growth of summer grasses (e.g. crabgrass and foxtail) that might compete with bluegrass and tall fescue as well as maximize the time for grasses to grow. Growers should top-dress bluegrass with 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre and tall fescue with 40 to 100 pounds.

To maximize stockpiled forage use, be sure to graze the grass-legume fields quickly after the first frost, saving pure grass stands for later in the season. In this time of high costs, stockpiling cool-season grasses extends the grazing season, reduces winter hay feeding, provides a good return of high quality forage for each pound of nitrogen applied and provides your cowherd an ideal place for wintering and calving.

For more information, contact the Bell County Extension office.

Stacy White is the Bell County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. Source: Josh McGrath, soil management extension specialist