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Stockpiling for Fall or Winter Grazing
Farm Business Management Update, August 2001
By Scott Jessee
Many wonder if stockpiling forage is a worthwhile endeavor. Allowing grazing animals to feed themselves a little longer during the year should be an attractive option for all producers. When forages are harvested and stored, the cost of the forage is increased approximately 50 to 60 percent. This increase in cost does not account for the cost of your time, which could be used for other things. Extending the grazing season using cool season grasses and legumes is one of the most cost effective practices available to farmers. Below are some facts about stockpiling fescue.
- The standard recommendation for fertilizing fescue for stockpiling in Virginia is 4080 pounds of nitrogen (N) per acre. If pastures are fertilized August 15th with 60 pounds N and we have suitable environmental conditions, approximately 3,000 pounds of forage can be produced for late season grazing. If a cow in mid-lactation needs 30 pounds of dry matter per day, an acre of properly utilized stockpiled fescue (assuming 50 percent dry matter) will feed the cow for about 40 days.
- N can be supplied from several sources. Ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate are the best forms of N fertilizer because they are less volatile than urea (not as much is lost to the atmosphere). N from these sources will not be lost if it does not rain soon after application, and they are less likely to cause pasture burn.
- Cost: On average this season in Southwest Virginia, ammonium nitrate is $0.43 per unit or $25.80 per acre (assuming 60 pounds N per acre). According to VCE-Hay Production Budgets, it costs around $56 to produce a ton of hay. By allowing grazing animals to harvest this forage, you can save approximately $30 per acre in harvest costs.
- The quality of stockpiled forages is typically as good or better than the "good hay" stored by most producers. This year with rainy conditions, most of the hay in our area was mature when baled. Mature fescue hay would generally run around 8.7 percent crude protein and 44 percent energy. On average, stockpiled forages are around 12 percent crude protein, 60 percent energy, and 45 percent acid detergent fiber. Unlike the mature hay, stockpiled forages of this quality meet the needs of cows during any stage of production. The hay would require supplementation of grain to meet the nutritional requirements of cows.
If you have any questions about stockpiling fescue, please call your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.
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Virginia Cooperative Extension