Start stockpiling forage growth now

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By Steve Moore

Early August is the time to begin stockpiling pasture for fall and winter use. We use the term ‘stockpiling’ a lot in the forage/livestock industry to describe the process of allowing forage growth on selected pastures or hay fields for use at a later date. Most often, we recommend stockpiling a field of straight fescue by stimulating late summer and early fall growth with additional nitrogen. When things are good, we can get 26 pounds of additional dry matter yield on stockpiled fescue per pound of nitrogen applied on Aug. 15. That efficiency goes down to 19:1 if we wait until Sept. 1, and down to 11:1 on Oct. 1. Remember, this is ‘additional’ fall growth over and above the growth you will get when our fescue grows into the cooler, wetter season.

Up to 80 pounds of nitrogen per acre can be utilized by the fescue fields now, but that number goes down as the season progresses. In other words, since the efficiency goes down, the number of pounds of nitrogen added needs to go down as we get into September and October.

To stockpile, graze short or take a cutting of hay, remove and keep cattle off the field, apply nitrogen fertilizer, and allow the grass to accumulate growth until November or December or even later. Whether you graze or cut for hay, make sure that current vegetation is removed so that stockpile production comes from new grass regrowth. This ensures best yield and best quality. Stockpiled fescue has some really good protein and energy, and in tests we’ve done in Henry County, the quality stays high even into deep winter (February). In general, stockpiled fescue has better quality than nearly any hay we have available.

During the stockpiling period, Aug. 1 to Nov. 1, other available forages such as sorghum-sudan hybrids, sudangrass and grass-clover should be used. After frost, alfalfa-grass and clover-grass growth should be grazed first before moving to grass fields. For more information on stockpiling, see our publication ‘Stockpiling for Fall and Winter Pasture’ (AGR-172) or contact us at the Henry County Extension Office at 845-2811.

Late summer seeding time is upon us

If your plans call for a new forage seeding of cool-season grasses (tall fescue, orchardgrass, timothy, bluegrass), alfalfa, clover or winter annuals, it’s not too early to be making decisions of what variety or varieties to plant. UK’s agronomy department does an excellent job of testing many varieties at multiple locations. Results for 2012 and previous years are available through the County Extension Office and on our website at: www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage/ForageVarietyTrials2.htm

Reports include: alfalfa, red and white clover, orchardgrass, ryegrass, fescue, bromegrass, timothy, bluegrass and corn for silage. In addition, variety trials using grazing annuals include: alfalfa, red and white clover and cool-season grasses. Another relatively new addition to the reports is the “Long-Term Summary of Kentucky Variety Trials.” Getting a certified variety that yields well in Kentucky is just one of the many tools available to farm managers to build their forage program.