Ohio State University Extension Bulletin

Maximizing Fall and Winter Grazing of Beef Cows and Stocker Cattle

Bulletin 872-98

Forage Quality and Class of Livestock

Forage yield and quality of the stockpiled fescue will decrease as the winter progresses. In late fall and early winter, nutritive value may be adequate to support good growth rates of weaned calves or stockers, but it rapidly becomes more appropriate as a dry cow feed. Crude protein levels may not decrease greatly, but total energy will decrease significantly from November to March. If there is a difference in length of stockpiling period among pastures, begin grazing the oldest material first before it becomes too deteriorated. If some areas have a significant amount of red clover, graze them early as well, because red clover deteriorates more rapidly after frost than tall fescue.

Heifers First and second-calf heifers may require supplementation with quality hay or occasionally with energy and protein in late-winter and early-spring. Young cows are also susceptible to nutritional deficiencies during early lactation (Van Keuren and Stuedemann, 1979). One alternative is to stimulate early grass growth by planting early-growing varieties or nitrogen applications. Another alternative may be to delay calving to match forage reserves with the demands of lactation.

Backgrounding Stockpiled tall fescue pasture, along with big hay bales, is frequently used to winter calves and light-weight yearling calves. In a three-year study in Missouri (Sewell, 1984), 450- to 500-pound steer calves averaged 0.7 pounds of gain daily on stockpiled tall fescue pasture, supplemented with fescue hay and limited amounts of cracked corn when snow-covered. Calves will usually need four to five pounds of a grain-protein mixture per head daily to average 1.2 pounds daily gain on winter fescue pasture.

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