Stockpiling Fescue for Winter Grazing

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Cool season forages, especially fescue, are excellent candidates for stockpiling. While fescue may garner a bad reputation for endophyte issues and poor production in the summer months, fall is a time to shine for fescue. Cool temperatures in the fall negate complications with elevated body temperatures when cattle are consuming endophyte infected fescue. Re-growth in the fall is primarily green leaf tissue and the plant is not putting on seadheads which are a feared, concentrated source of the endophyte.

The stockpiling process starts with designating pastures that will be used for stockpiling. Cattle need to be removed from the selected pastures in early to mid-August. Applying supplemental nitrogen in August has proven beneficial to yields. When pastures were allowed to stockpile until Dec. 1, applying 50 pounds of actual N per acre in early to mid-August can add approximately 25 lbs. DM per lb. of N added or 1,250 lbs. of DM / acre.

Grazing management will greatly influence the ability to utilize stockpiled forages. Strip grazing is the common and most recommended practice. Strip grazing will allow close to a 70% utilization of the available forage, a 30% improvement over continuous grazing. Stockpiling fescue for 90-100 days will typically yield approximately 2000 lbs. DM per acre. Assuming a 1400 lb. cow eats 3% her body weight in DM, the cow would eat 42 lbs. DM per day. Using strip grazing, an acre of stockpiled fescue could support a cow for 33 days. Adding 50 lbs. of N can gain an extra 21 days of grazing under the same management and stocking rate.