Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri 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
November 5, 1998

Winter Grazing Tips

The stage is set for a very wet winter for many cattle producers throughout the Midwest. Recent rainfall amounts have the soil saturated with all the water that can be absorbed at this time. Growing degree days are limited, to state the best, with the beginning of November which adds to the problem of mud for the winter.

Producers who have stockpiled forages presently have the greatest potential for reducing health problems related to wet muddy conditions. The winter of 1997/98 is still on the minds of many producers. The tragic death loss of many calves under one month of age is still embedded in the minds of many cow/calf managers. The tractor tracks are still evident in many places where feed was being distributed to livestock.

Producers who have access to corn and soybean residue need to utilize this first. However, keep in mind the condition score of the cow herd and don't let the body condition decrease to an undesirable level. When the residue reaches reduced levels or the fields are reaching the gleaned-up stage, the beef cow needs to be supplemented or moved to fresh areas for grazing.

Economical grazing management offers a considerable cost savings when cattle are moved to areas that have been managed for winter grazing of stockpiled forage. Controlling consumption and reducing waste are the keys to reducing the cost of winter grazing. Temporary fencing will assist with grazing management. Research work I completed several years ago indicated that by using controlled grazing of tall fescue approximately one third of the crop could be saved. An example of this was two thirty-acre areas grazed at the same time with two groups of cows nursing fall calves. One group of cows grazed free choice and the other group was permitted to graze only ten acres at a time. At the end of the grazing portion of this trial the controlled grazed group had ten acres of forage left that had not been utilized while the free choice group ran out of stockpiled grass.

Many producers tend to think that supplementation of winter forage is expensive. This may be true for many producers. However, if the cost of mowing, raking, baling, storing and feeding hay is considered, a considerable amount of supplementation can be provided. Letting the cow serve as the harvester and processor and providing a small amount of supplementation is far cheaper compared to the cost and operation of high-priced equipment.

Body condition score will drop quicker than expected when available forage is depleted and winter weather adds to the energy requirement of the beef cow. Watch this combination of factors and don't let the cows' nutritional needs next spring reach a level that interferes with the health of the newborn calf.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - November 5, 1998
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT110598.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004