Experts say there is a chance for growth going into the fall, if Mother Nature cooperates

With the drought that has taken place in the Ozarks over the summer, grass and hay are in short supply. It’s been so dry that producers are wondering if the forage can bounce back even if the region receives and maintains adequate rainfall.

While it is likely too late for summer forages to make a comeback, if the conditions are right fescue could come to the rescue of livestock producers.

“Grazing this fall is still possible with adequate rainfall. Cool season pastures, like fescue, usually go dormant in the summer and have slow growth. In the fall they increase growth again,” Jill Scheidt, agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, said.

There is a slight potential that fescue could aid in having a fall cutting of hay.

“If we receive adequate fall moisture and a warm fall, fescue will surprise you with growth. Some may even be tall enough for an October hay crop,” Eldon Cole, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist, explained. “I’d probably lean towards using it for grazing rather than hay that late.”

Fertilizing stockpiled pastures can help aid producers in having grass to help carry them through the winter, according to John Jennings, professor of forages at the University of Arkansas.

“A good option is to fertilize fescue pastures for stockpiled pasture. Stockpiled fescue can produce significant growth during fall if conditions improve and can be grazed all winter depending on acreage,” he said.

Tim Schnakenberg, Extension agronomy specialist, recommends 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre on stockpiled fescue. Following fertilization and the recommended growing period, a rotational grazing program needs to be implemented to maximize forages.

“Rotational grazing will nearly double utilization,” Schnakenberg said. “Strip grazing or multiple paddocks work exceptionally well for rationing out stockpiled fescue. If you have Bermuda fields, don’t forget that you can also stockpile them using nitrogen and closing gates.”

Producers should consider planting additional forages for fall and winter to help with the lack of forage now.

“Consider seeding poor stands of fescue with winter annuals. Do not seed annuals into strong stands of fescue. If it rains, the fescue will out-compete emerging seedlings, if it doesn’t rain, those seeds won’t germinate well,” Schnakenberg said.

“Unless producers can find enough hay, their only option (before selling livestock) is to try to grow more forage for fall and winter,” said Jennings. “Our research has shown good fall forage production from brassicas, rye, wheat, and spring or winter oats planted in September. These should be planted on lightly disked soil and fertilized at planting. No-till planting works as well, but fields should be sprayed first with glyphosate to make sure weeds and sod don’t outcompete the winter annual forages. Oat and brassica have the highest and earliest fall growth potential followed by rye then by wheat. Ryegrass produces less fall growth but seed cost per acre is lower. Early planted oats may grow large enough to winterkill but can offer much more fall forage to graze. Planting some acres early to brassica or oats and other acreage later to rye, wheat, or ryegrass spreads out production and risk. Specific planting information can be obtained through the county Extension office.”


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