Producers’ calendars are full

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Ag column by Doug Shepherd, Extension Service

By Doug Shepherd

As we get into the holiday season and begin to wind down the year, several groups are holding annual meetings and other important educational events. A few of these are listed here. For more information on any of these, contact the Hardin County Extension Service office at (270) 765-4121.

  • Beef Quality Assurance Training, 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Extension Service. BQA certification is a requirement for those receiving CAIP grant funds and those selling calves in Kentucky CPH45 sales. Cost of certification is $5 per person and is payable to the Kentucky Beef Network.  Program is open to any beef producer interested in producing consumer acceptable beef products as well as cattle that are handled and treated in a humane manner.
  • Hardin County Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting is 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Nolin RECC. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (270) 765-4121 or online at www.hardinext.org.
  • Kentucky Farm Bureau annual meeting is Dec. 5-8 at the Galt House in Louisville.
  • Deadline for CAIP grant projects is Dec. 14. All invoices and other required paperwork must be turned in to Jessica at the Hardin County Extension Service by close of business Dec. 14. All approved grant funded projects must be completed by this date as well.
  • Hardin County Goat Producers annual meeting and Christmas potluck is at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Extension Service. Any interested goat or sheep producer and their families are invited to attend.
  • The Hardin County Extension Service is closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. The office also is closed Dec. 25 through Jan. 1 to coordinate with the University of Kentucky’s winter break.

Grazing Stockpiled Forages: The use of stockpiled forages can extend the grazing season and reduce the amount of stored feed needed to feed livestock through fall and winter. Stockpiling forages, or allowing forage growth to accumulate for use at a later time, can help extend the grazing season and is becoming more and more popular with local producers. To stockpile forages, cattle are removed from these fields starting in August. The forage is then allowed to grow and accumulate up into the winter.

Tall fescue is ideal for stockpiling as quality and digestibility decline slowly over winter compared to other common forage species which deteriorate more rapidly after frost. Forage analysis shows fescue hay often is lower in nutritional quality than stockpiled fescue. Another benefit is its ability to be grazed close with little effect on spring growth. The risk of fescue toxicity is reduced when grazing endophyte-infected tall fescue in the winter. Grazing stockpiled tall fescue can provide a high-quality feed throughout late fall and early winter, especially when the leaves of these plants are still green.

Suggested management practices, or practices proven through research to maximize utilization and prolong the grazing season, should be used when grazing stockpiled forages to maximize utilization and prolong the grazing season. It is best to start grazing stockpiled fescue in November or December. This allows for maximum growth prior to grazing and minimal quality loss. If other species of grass have been stockpiled, graze those fields first as they decrease in quality faster.

Strip grazing is ideal to maximize utilization and reduce trampling and waste. Grazing at relatively high stocking densities also helps maximize forage utilization but be sure there is enough forage for the number of animals and allotted amount of time between new forage offerings. Be prepared for adverse weather conditions (i.e. snow or ice cover) when grazing stockpiled tall fescue by keeping hay on hand throughout the winter months.

Providing high-quality tall fescue forage reduces the need for stored and purchased feed, feeding labor and machinery costs, thus its popularity with many producers. It is important to use the best management practices to make this strategy profitable. It is essential to look at all aspects of your operation and to consider current prices, such as fertilizer prices, before deciding if using this practice is best suited for your farm.

There are several demonstrations being conducted in the county this fall using a product called RzyUP Smartgrass on stockpiled grass pastures that should increase forage production of those fields. Data still is being collected but the results thus far look very impressive. We’ll keep you posted on this research and plan to repeat the demonstrations this spring. Anything to reduce the number of days required to feed hay to livestock during the winter is a very positive step in lowering feed and other production costs.

Douglas W. Shepherd is Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.