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The Midwest Cattleman · October 27, 2022 · P22
      Practice Patience with Your Stockpile

      By Victor Shelton, Retired NRCS Agronomist/Grazing Specialist
         When a lot of things that  late for grazing at a later pe- er than normal but leaving  er grazing season, quite
      occupy your time or influence  riod, usually for fall and win- good residual. That good stop  often reduced production
      your pocketbook are impact- ter grazing after dormancy.  grazing height will slow run- due to shorter rest periods,
      ed by the weather it is hard  Stockpiling usually is initiat- off over winter, reduce any  and again, increased inputs.
      to not talk about it some! I  ed anywhere from early Au- erosion and help springboard  Enough of that tangent.
      felt it was a very odd growing  gust to the first of September.  growth next season.                       Early grazing of stockpiled
      season, at least in my neck of  I like to see at least 60 days          Quite often, people get in  forage, prior to dormancy, re-
      the woods. My reasons were  of forage accumulation prior  too much of a hurry to uti- duces the plant vigor the fol-
      certainly different than in  to the first frost – that means  lize that stockpiled forage.  lowing spring and quite often
      other areas, even not that  it needs to be started by  This usually happens with  opens it up to more compe-
      far away.  The weather con- mid-August most years. This  systems that are running out  tition from weeds, especial-
      stantly reminds me that we  time frame allows enough  of forage to graze. Stocking  ly if there was a lot of soil
      need to always have a plan B  time, with adequate rainfall,  rates have increased on sev- disturbance or over grazing
      and be prepared to act on it.  to grow a nice amount of for- eral farms the last few years  occurred. Fields that have
      It also reminds me that we  age for use after dormancy.               – that is the number of ani- had increased weed pres-
      need to build in as much re-          Waiting until after dor- mal units (1000-pound live  sure are probably not the
      silience into the grazing sys- mancy is important. Dor- weight)  on the  total acres.  best to stockpile and should
      tem as possible.                   mancy often requires several  Quite  often to  more animal  be allowed to recover prior to
         I’ve  been asked  twice  re- nights in a row at 25 degrees  units than the land base can  dormancy and left ungrazed
      cently about what I consider  or lower. Once dormant, the  adequately  support. When  until the next spring.
      “stockpiled” forage. Stock- forage can be grazed with less  that happens, more “fed” feed                  When possible, such fields
      piled  forage  is  technically  harm to the plant’s energy  is needed to support the an- could also be stockpiled early
      defined as standing forage  reserves. When it is grazed, it  imals present. That is quite  and then left to be utilized
      that is allowed  to accumu- can be taken down a bit clos- often purchased feed.  The  early the next spring when
                                                                                         pencil better be  both the cows and owners are
                                                                                         pretty sharp to  eager to start grazing. That
                                                                                         make that work  stockpile not only could help
                                                                                         out well with  to reduce weeds due to stron-
                                                                                         present day pric- ger root systems and cover
                                                                                         es.                  but can provide an excellent
                                                                                            A fair amount  site for calving or such with-
                                                                                         of marginal land  out mud.
                                                                                         that used to be         I’ve seen several pastures
                                                                                         pasture or hay  that were stockpiled as rec-
                                                                                         land has been  ommended, but grazed too
                                                                                         converted        to early, let to regrow, and then
                                                                                         cropland. If an- grazed again. I’ve intention-
                                                                                         imal      numbers ally done this in some of my
                                                                                         were not adjust- experiments and paid for it
                                                                                         ed, the stocking  dearly. Not only was there a
                                                                                         rate     increased weakened forage stand the
                                                                                         putting       more next spring, but the site was
                                                                                         pressure on the  also more easily disturbed
                                                                                         remaining acres.  during any grazing event
                                                                                         That generally  and that greatly increased
                                                                                         means a short-
                                                                                                                            continued on page 24

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