Are you interested in grazing your cattle year-round? Do you know if your pasture is large enough to do so? These, among others, are typical concerns shared by many small cattle operations. With the rising price of feed, it’s important to consider all of your options.
One beneficial solution may be to use intensive grazing to lower feed costs. While available space may be a factor, it’s important to assess the quality and type of grasses growing in your pasture. I recommend analyzing the nutritional benefit of your most common type of grass and determining the best time of year for their consumption.
While lengthy, this helpful guide lists advantages and disadvantages for numerous types of grasses.
Common, beneficial pasture grasses in Ohio include:
- Tall Fescue
- Excellent for fall and winter grazing
- Drought tolerant and, once established, has root system that can withstand moderate flooding
- A nutrient-rich plant that has protein, calcium, and quality fibers
- Very palatable to bovines
- Can continuously grow for 5 years with little management
- Perennial Ryegrass
- Recovers promptly after close grazing
- Most commonly mixed with red clover to balance nutrients
Once you’ve determined which grasses are growing in your pasture, I recommend focusing on your land and number of animals. You can break your pasture into any number of shapes and sizes, but do keep in mind your water availability and the labor involved with moving cows from one area to another. I’d recommend starting with a smaller number of cattle and paddocks but then subdivide the larger areas with more fencing if you’re having success. Starting off small will give you a feel for how long it takes your cows to eat a particular space and how often you’ll need to rotate them.
When forming your plan, pay close attention to the needs of your cows as well as their condition. You’ll want to avoid letting your replacement heifers get over weight or your cows get into poor condition, both of which can hinder rebreeding.
You may also want to consider winter grazing which can save your several thousand dollars a year. A publication from the Iowa Beef Center shows that the cost of extended grazing in Ohio can significantly lower your costs, as follows:
Estimated winter feed cost/cow/day:
- Stockpiled grass: $0.55-$0.65
- Standing corn: $1.17
- Hay-based diet: $1.60