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Stockpiling for fall pasture dependent on weather conditions

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Early to mid-August is generally a good time to remove cattle from selected tall fescue pastures and apply 40-100 pounds of nitrogen for stockpiling and later fall grazing. You want to select pastures that have been grazed low or clipped to 3 to 4 inches so stockpiled grass comes from new growth. Well, for most pastures, this isn’t a big problem because we pretty much don’t have any pasture growth due to the lack of rainfall.  Rain last week helped, but we aren’t out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.

Whether or not to apply nitrogen to pastures is dependent upon adequate rainfall and cost of nitrogen. This is risky business in our current weather pattern. Coupled with nitrogen prices around 90 cents per pound, it definitely makes you stop and think. One thing we all do know, however, is that it’s cheaper to graze cattle on pasture than to buy hay for them. Hay is in short supply and will get more expensive as the weather gets colder. The later in August you wait to apply nitrogen, the less benefit you receive from the application. We are in a narrow time frame here, so you may have to make a split second decision.

If rainfall patterns change in the next week or two a minimum application of nitrogen would cost about $36.00 per acre. The range, depending on application amount, would be $36-$90 per acre.

The expected high price of hay may make this an easier decision. If current rainfall patterns continue or worsen, much of your nitrogen application could be lost or wasted. Like I said, it’s a risky decision. You are totally at the mercy of the weather.

During the stockpiling period, August 1 to November 1, other available forages such as sorghum-sudan hybrids, sudangrass, grass-lespedeza, and grass-clover should be used. After frost, alfalfa-grass and clover-grass growth should be grazed first before moving to grass fields.

Some producers may want to consider baling soybeans for hay if yields are going to be extremely low. Low yielding corn fields are also an option for green chop ensiling in bags or rotational grazing. Fields should be checked for high nitrates if you are considering the grazing option.

For more information on stockpiling or grazing corn call the Trimble County Extension Service at 502-255-7188.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.  

Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.