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From the Ground Up - Winter Forages for Cattle


With the costs of processed cattle feed and hay remaining high, cattle producers look for different ways to supplement their winter feed requirements. With a little cooperation from Mother Nature, cool season small grains or grasses are one alternative. Larry Redmon is a Texas A&M Agrilife Extension State Forage Specialist.

“Every once in a while you’ll come up on a pasture that will be just lush green in the dead of winter and you say what can that be? Well, it’s not some fancy warm season grass. It’s going to be the cool season grass that a rancher has purposely put into that pasture for cattle feeding to help reduce his costs associated with winter feeding.”

Redmon explained that in our part of the country, the main stay for forage are spring and summer grasses.

“Our primary forage base is warm season perennial grass, a number of them, Bermuda grass, Klein grass, Bahia grass, whatever, and those things grow year to year to year to year. But they go to sleep during the winter. And so when they go to sleep the cattle still have a need for something that they can graze every year.”

With the high cost of hay, winter pastures can reduce the amount needed to feed and lower a rancher’s total feed bill.

“A number of our producers go to the effort and the expense to go out there and establish into those sleeping warm season grass pastures a cool season plant.”

Ranchers may choose small grains like oats and wheat, or later maturing alternatives like clover and rye grass, or a combination.

“In the case of the oat or the wheat something like that, maybe be ready to graze by December one or so. If we’re using clovers, if we’re using rye grass, they’re going to be available late February, early march, something like that, but using the same pastures that are asleep, the warm season grass pastures, we can then do double duty, we can over seed, that’s a term we use to just planting cool season grass or clover seed into that sleeping warm season grass sod, and get double duty out of that pasture.”

As a homeowner you may do the same thing by over-seeding your lawn to give you a lush winter landscape


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