Stockpiling Warm Season Annuals
You know that stockpiling your cool season pastures is a great way to stretch the grazing season of your perennials. What about stockpiling your warm season annuals? Forage quality and overall tonnage are just a few benefits to this practice.
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Extending the grazing season is one of the most profitable tactics livestock owners can use. Aiming for the longest grazing season possible minimizes the amount of stored forage you have to grow, harvest, haul, and feed, which saves money all around. Also, livestock are able haul their own manure for you, saving the time, labor, and fuel it takes to move it from winter feeding areas.
These monetary benefits can sometimes pale in comparison to the power that grazing livestock can have on soil biology and their activity. Grazing warm season cover crops allows for residue and manure to be recycled directly back into the soil for microbes to start their part in the process. Above and below ground livestock stay well fed further into the winter.
If the warm season annuals are planted early in the summer, one to two cuttings could be taken before beginning to stockpile. If planted later in the summer, it may be best to let the mix grow and only be harvested by grazing once it is stockpiled. What exactly do we mean by “mix” in this situation? We recommend a blend of annual grasses, legumes, and brassicas for a stockpiling situation. This is usually some combination of sorghum sudangrass, sudangrass, millet, cowpeas, mung beans, clovers, and forage brassicas.
A similar mix is pictured above. The grasses in the mix will have a lot of growth in the summer heat and create structure in the mix to hold snow at different layers. We recommend using BMR varieties so that even at this more mature stage, they maintain better fiber digestibility. Legumes add protein to the mix earlier in the fall and winter and brassicas hold their quality longer into the winter. Livestock are able to make their own TMR combining the high protein brassica foliage with the digestible warm season grasses.
Sounds like a good plan? Your livestock think so!