Submitted to: Arkansas Experiment Station Research Series
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2006
Publication Date: 12/1/2006
Citation: Caldwell, J.D., Coffey, K.P., Coblentz, W.K., Ogden, R.K., Jennings, J.A., Smith, T.F., Hubbell, D.S. 2006. Growth Performance by Fall-Calving Cow-Calf Pairs Grazing Tall Fescue Pastures with Different Proportions Stockpiled Until Late Fall. Research Series 545. Arkansas Animal Science Department Report. 9:140-142.
Interpretive Summary: In recent years, there has been increased interest in the Ozarks for autumn-stockpiling tall fescue forage for grazing during the winter months. Generally, this grazing technique requires producers to remove existing residual vegetation in early September, fertilize with a moderate amount of nitrogen fertilizer (about 50 lbs N/acre), and then remove cattle until approximately December 1in order to allow forage to accumulate. However, it remains unclear what proportion of total fescue acreage is optimum for cow-calf enterprises. In our study, stockpiling tall fescue did not improve the performance of fall-calving cows or their calves. However, autumn stockpiling improved overall forage utilization, specifically when 50% of the total acreage was stockpiled. This resulted in a substantial reduction in the amount of hay offered, thereby reducing overall winter feed costs.
Technical Abstract: Stockpiling tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) is a viable but variable management practice used to reduce winter feed costs for cattle. The objective of this 2-yr study was to determine the impact of stockpiling different proportions of total fescue acreage on growth performance of fall-calving cows and their calves. One hundred fifty-six fall-calving cows (1,213 ± 15 lb) were assigned to 1 of 8 predominantly tall fescue pastures (subdivided into six 4-acre paddocks) at a stocking rate of one cow/2.4 acres on August 19 of both years. The pastures were assigned to treatments consisting of: 1) no stockpiled area (S0); 2) 33% of area stockpiled (S33); or 3) 50% of area stockpiled (S50). Stockpiling was initiated on September 10 of both years. Cows grazing S0 had lower (P = 0.05) weight loss from August 19 (precalving) to the end of the breeding season compared with the mean of cows grazing S33 and S50. Cow BCS loss from precalving to November 20 (beginning of breeding season and of grazing stockpiled cells) was greater (P < 0.05) for S33 vs. S50 cows. Calf daily gains were greater (P = 0.05) from S0 than from S33 and S50 calves. Available forage was greater (P < 0.05) from S50 than S33 pastures, but total hay consumed did not differ among treatments. Therefore, although stockpiling total tall fescue is a viable option for spring-calving cows, stockpiling as much as 33% of the total acreage may limit performance by fall-calving cows.