Making the most of your fall grazing

By Ted Wiseman, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County

Depending on what part of the state or country you live in, this year has been another challenge with pastures and forages. Hay yields are all over the board as far as quantity and to date I am surprised of the few results that I have seen the quality. Many in my area were able to get first cutting of in great time this spring, but the quality has been surprisingly lower than expected. So as many finish up hay making, now is a good time to take inventory of what you have and take forage samples to determine what nutrient values are in the crop.

If you find yourself with low forages going into fall, some options may include utilizing land coming out of CRP contracts, corn stalks, cover crops or a hay field being converted into row crops. Fall is a great time to construct a new, repair existing or implement temporary fencing. First evaluate what forage and water resources you have available. Other factors to consider are what type of livestock do you have and what type of fence will keep them contained? All of these revolve around what materials are available, what are the costs and your time. Making these decisions is easier than ever before. We now can generate arial photos to measure acreages that have permanent fencing, determine exclusion areas, hayfields, and cropland.

Once you have a plan keep it simple and flexible. Having a good perimeter fence allows for many more options. This reduces the safety hazard and liability concern of livestock on roadways, or damage to field crops and gardens on neighboring properties. The more limited the forages the more livestock are going test the fence. Limiting access to smaller sections of interior pastures and moving more often will help maintain forage quality and livestock will not be testing your fence as much.

Temporary fencing options have greatly expanded in recent years. Don’t be tempted to use the cheapest and less efficient fencing equipment. More often this leads to more frustration and a shorter lifespan. The other concern in this situation is wildlife. Small braid or wire with low visibility is often damaged by deer. Good quality visible polywire or tape, reels and posts and adequate energizer will make the fall grazing season more flexible and enjoyable. To have an effective electric fence to keep livestock contained and predators out is determined by what type of fence you have, the energizer and proper grounding. The are several types of energizers with some nice features on the market today. The 110V plug in type energizers typically will be the most economical for the most power. Battery energizers are portable and can be used in remote areas when electric is not available. Generally, a 12v rechargeable, “D” cell or a 9v disposable batteries is used. Solar energizers can also be used in remote areas, but typically have the highest cost. Multi powered energizers which combine any or all the previously mentioned types, are a great feature if you are moving livestock from areas that have electric power to others that do not.

Whatever situation you find yourself in moving into fall, take time to observe your forages and livestock. With grazing livestock, we are forage farmers first only using livestock to manage them. Permanent pastures should be managed for long term, the flexible fencing part helps us take advantage of those crops that can be used in years that we need to adjust to adversity.

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