Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missorui Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
January 28, 1999

Planning Your 1999 Forages

Many factors influence the quality of grass. We see a considerable variation in the nutrient composition of grasses. You may think that these variations in species may be only a percent or two, but this adds up to a considerable nutritional value over the grazing season.

Another variation we see is the season of the year and variation within a season. If we consider wheat or oats compared to brome or orchard grass in the spring we see a definite increase in the feed value of the wheat or oats compared to the mentioned cool season grasses. Keep in mind that some forage species just reach their peak of nutritional value at different seasons or times within a season when they are compared to other forages.

Temperature and amount of moisture available have an effect on the growing potential of the plant. Cool season grasses are at their peak of nutritional production at different seasons of the year compared to warm season grasses. Ample moisture stimulates nutrient uptake from the soil which promotes plant growth.

Nutrients available in the soil have a definite effect on the forage availability and the lushness of the plant growth. Maintaining the plant food level to obtain optimal plant growth at the time of year your livestock needs forage nutrition is a very important part of any planned grazing management process.

The stage of growth of the plant has a tremendous effect on the nutritional value of the forages. As a lush green grass matures the nutrient content of the plant changes. The more mature the plant becomes the more lignin appears and the less protein and energy is available for livestock consumption and digestion. The availability of vitamins and minerals are decreased as plant maturity occurs. Added rainfall when plants reach maturity causes leaching of the plant nutritional values which in turn reduces the quality of the plant.

Most of our pastures contain an abundance of cool season grasses. Grazing these pastures until they are very short is considered by many a management technique that harvests all of the available forage. This may be true; however, pastures grazed close throughout the entire grazing season frequently become infested with weeds, and certain species of brush tends to become more prevalent in the grazing areas.

Depending on the market potential of your grazing livestock, supplementation on pasture may be desirable. Frequently we can provide additional dry matter at the peak of lush grass and this will tend to slow down the passage rate of forages through the digestive tract. Another time to consider supplementation would be throughout the dormant stage of cool season grasses or the hot summer months. Oftentimes it is economically feasible to provide some form of supplementation to enhance the digestion of the available forages.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - January 28, 1999
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT012899.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004