The Benefits Of Feeding Quality Forage To Beef Cattle
Lush, green pastures aren't just pretty to look at, they can be money makers for your beef cattle operation. The higher quality forage you have available, the better able your pasture will be to meet the nutritional needs of your herd. As forage provides the majority of nutrient needs to beef cattle, it's important to think about pasture management 365 days a year.
The first step in creating a quality pasture is to select grasses and legumes that will thrive in your soil and environment.
Examples Of Quality Forage Grasses
- Bermudagrass (especially in more southern states)
- Popular legumes are Alfalfa and Clover
When planting fescue it's important to be aware of potential hazards associated with endophyte infected fescue. These issues can include reduced reproductive performance and lower weight gain.
Get Your Soil Tested
Southern States offers a variety of pasture mixes for you to choose from including Grass Beef Pasture 25 lb, Grass Horse Paddock Mix 25lb, and Grass Pro Horse Pasture 25lb. Contact your local Southern States agronomist to develop a forage planting and maintenance plan for your pastures.
Our agronomists can also help you sample your soil for current conditions and test already cut hay. "The principal of testing is that you need to know what you've got," says Southern States agronomist David Jessee. "Looking at a bale of hay or an acre of ground doesn't tell the whole story." Soil test results will determine lime or fertilizing needs for the next growing season. Remember the better the soil, the greater the potential for both quantity and quality of forage in the pasture.
Develop A Pasture Management Plan
Once you have healthy forage growing in your fields it's crucial to have a pasture management plan. Remember, a pasture is like any other piece of equipment around the farm, it must be properly maintained for best performance. Now that summer is here, grass in your fields needs to be given a little extra TLC as heat stress can weaken the plants.
Ways to preserve your fields during the summer months include:
Limit The Number Of Cattle Per FieldA good rule of thumb is each cow or cow with calf requires at least an acre and a third. This will eliminate potential overgrazing.
Rest and Rotate Pastures.Resting pastures allows plants to replenish food reserves. Without a break from the stresses from hooves and teeth, forages will not be able to reestablish new growth. Recovery time for pastures can range from 10 to 60 days depending on the season. While resting your pastures, implement rotational grazing by either splitting a large pasture into several smaller fenced lots or move your cattle to a completely new area if you have the space.
Regardless of the amount of land you have the "rules" remain the same, "eat half, keep half".Once your herd eats half of the grass that had grown prior to grazing it's time to rotate and rest the grass to allow the plants to regrow.
Taking care of your pastures isn't a one and done effort. Proper management throughout the year will pay dividends in reducing your feed bill and increasing your profit margin when you grow bigger cattle.
To speak to one of our agronomists or livestock specialists in your area find your local Southern States store, or contact Customer Service at 1 (866) 372-8272 anytime Mon. - Fri., 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST.