Five ways to improve forage production

Dr. Gary Bates, Plant and Soil Science, UT Extension Service

One of our goals should be to get the most out of everything we do. Apply this philosophy to the forage program on your farm. Are you being efficient, or are you wasting a lot of time, effort, and money on things that aren’t giving you a good return?

Here are some ways you can improve returns from your forage program:

• Renovate your pastures with red and white clover. Clovers in pastures improve the quality of the grazing and the hay produced from the pasture. They also eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizer in the spring. Drill 2 pounds of ladino white clover and 4 pounds of red clover and 4 pounds of red clover per acre from Feb. 15 through March 31.

• Use temporary fencing to reduce pasture size. One of the biggest problems with pastures is too much forage in the spring and too little in the summer. Because of this, we waste forage in spring and overgraze pastures in the summer. To better manage the fluctuations in the pastures, cut down their size. That way, cattle are forced to graze more of rotational grazing. This allows a rest period for regrowth of forage of forage.

• Stockpile tall fescue in the fall. Tall fescue forage in the fall is high quality, and quality stays high into winter. So, you can fertilize fescue in fall and graze cattle until after frost. This extends the grazing season and decreases hay feeding.

• Use proper hay storage methods. If you store round bales outside on the ground, you lose third of the hay before you even begin to feed it. Put hay in a barn or under a hay tarp to reduce losses. If you can’t do this, at least get it off the ground on rocks or poles.

• Use a controlled breeding season. You might be wondering what this has to do with a forage program. If you have cows calving every month of the year, then when some cows calve and need high-quality forage, other cows are dry and can get by on lower-quality forage. You can’t develop an efficient forage program without grouping the cows and matching their nutrient needs to forage production.

For more information or advice about forage production on your farm, contact your local Stockdale’s.