A different winter feeding approach, other than hay, could be the use of standing or stockpiled warm season perennials (such as bermudagrass or bahiagrass). These forages are allowed to accumulate in the field for grazing during fall and early winter. Stockpiled bermudagrass can provide the required nutrition for dry, pregnant cows through January if the appropriate procedure is followed. Producers should plan on providing approximately 45 to 60 days of grazing with the dormant bermudagrass. In most instances, stockpiled bermudagrass should be used up by January. Once the stockpiled bermudagrass is completely grazed, a shift to another winter feeding option (cool season forages and/or hay).
Adequate moisture combined with the appropriate fertility program is required to produce the desired bermudagrass quantity and nutritive value. If fertilizer is not applied after cutting or grazing in August, producers may still take advantage of accumulated forage during the fall. There will not be as much forage accumulated and forage nutritive value will be lower. The forage, however, may still be utilized, providing appropriate supplementation is provided. If adequate moisture is not received during September, October and November, little bermudagrass will be produced and grazing initiation may be delayed.
Steps to stockpile bermudagrass/bahiagrass include:
- Graze pasture to a 2-3” stubble height or harvest the final cutting of hay in preparation for fertilization approximately 8 weeks prior to first anticipated frost.
- Apply 60 to 75 lbs of Nitrogen and phosphorus and potassium based on soil test recommendations.
- Defer pastures from grazing and allow forage to accumulate until frost or forage is needed.
- Initiate grazing in response to the need for hay supplementation.
- When stockpiled forage is completely grazed, it will be time to start traditional hay feeding program or initiate grazing cool season forages.
- Be sure to provide free choice mineral supplement to cattle and monitor body condition of the cattle.
Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Forage Extension Specialist
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service