Feed hay in the fall and save the new green grass for winter is a plan that can result in more feed for drought-stressed cow herds. University of Missouri Extension specialists urge continued feeding of hay to allow pastures to rebuild root reserves to prepare grass for strong growth next spring.
“It’s tempting to turn cows onto new fall growth when rains return after a drought,” says Rob Kallenbach, MU forage specialist.
There’s another reason to hold off, says Justin Sexten, MU beef nutritionist. Cows will need high-quality grass when winter brings wet and cold weather. The grass growing this fall can be stockpiled in pastures for winter grazing.
At just under 119 million tons, the 2011 U.S. hay crop is forecast by USDA to be the shortest since the drought year of 1988. Yields are down from 2010, but by less than 6%; it's kind of like the man with one foot in boiling water and the other in a bucket of ice - while the Southeast Plains crop has been devastated by what Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon calls the "most severe one-year drought on record," there's a lot of hay in places where it's typically harder to grow. The problem is getting it where it's needed.
As this cold winter starts to end, we need to be thinking about getting our plans set for the early spring season.
1. Hay season is just around the corner. Now is a good time to warm up the shop and get out the equipment manuals. Review the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance on your forage equipment. Sharpen or replace those blades on the cutter to properly cut grass or small grain. Grease all fittings. If any are missing, replace them. Check tire pressure on all equipment, inflate if needed, and replace faulty tires. Fill the baler up with twine. Replace any broken, lost, or bent spring teeth on the hay rake. Service the trailers and wagons and get them ready to roll. By spending the time now for maintenance and repair, we can prevent loss of valuable down time when we need to make hay while the sun is shining.