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Agricultural News for Farmers and Agribusiness in SW Georgia

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Good Calf Crop – Now Mangage Grazing

Posted by romeethredge on November 24, 2012

Nicholas Smith with his excellent calf crop. It looked almost like 2 calves for every cow out there. They were watching the irrigated field of rye that will soon be ready to enjoy. Nick is holding them out for a while to get some more growth on it.

Here’s excerpts from an excellent publication by Dr Dennis Hancock, UGA Extension Forages Scientist. The full article can be found here, then go to FERTILIZING AND GRAZING WINTER ANNUAL STANDS

In Georgia, our biggest competitive advantage in the beef cattle industry is our ability to grow and graze

forage during the winter months. One of the most important parts of a winter forage program is, of course, the

cool season annual grasses. However, it takes skill (and a healthy dose of common sense) to manage winter

annuals so that the forage produced matches the stocking rate. Now that your winter annuals are in the ground

for this season, this article presents seven keys to optimizing the production and management of your winter

annual forage.

Avoid Grazing Too Early

There is a big difference between “can” and “should”. Grazing of winter annuals can begin as soon as

the plants are wellestablished and have accumulated 34 in. of growth. However, grazing should begin only

after the plants accumulate 68 in. of growth. The plants will survive if they are grazed too early, but they will

never fully recover. Some recent research that Dr. Gary Hill and I have been doing in Athens and Tifton suggests

that starting to graze too early (i.e., at ~4 in.) reduces the total forage yield in the season by at least one third.

Start Light, End Heavy

Along those same lines, it is best to begin with a light stocking rate and gradually increase it as the

growing conditions improve and forage growth rate increases. A good way to do this is by restricting the

animal’s time on the paddock, rotating animals between paddocks, or using strip grazing techniques. But, later

in the season, the growth rate of the winter annuals will be much more rapid. If a light stocking rate is

maintained, much of the forage will get rank and overly mature. Ideally, more animals would be added to

increase the stocking rate. Of course, that usually is impractical. So, increase the stocking rate by reducing the

number of acres grazed. In practice, this means shutting animals out of some pastures or paddocks and letting

those areas grow up for hay or baleage. Be sure that you select those areas in advance, so that you don’t put N

fertilizer out if you don’t need the extra forage.

Know Your Forage

Our winter annual species differ a lot in their tolerance of grazing. Ryegrass and rye are generally very

tolerant of repeated grazing and generally regrow rapidly. On the other end of the spectrum, barley and triticale

do not regrow well after grazing. Wheat and oats are more intermediate, as they are quite a bit slower to

regrow than rye or ryegrass and have poor tolerance to heavy continuous grazing.


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