The composition of grass is reflected not only by stage of growth but by species, climate and geography. Green grass differs in quality due to differences in soil fertility, rainfall and heat. Cool season grasses grow as soon as it is warm enough to pull them out of their winter dormancy. They mature at different rates and basically quit growing when it gets too hot. Wheat and rye pastures along with brome and fescue pastures are good examples of cool season grasses. Yearlings are generally removed from wheat and rye pastures before a protein supplement is needed. It is rather obvious when wheat and rye start to mature that their forage component is now straw. Brome and fescue grasses do not mature as quickly or as dramatically as wheat and rye. These pastures do however decrease in protein enough to justify a protein supplement. As grasses mature, their protein content and the fiber becomes lower in digestibility. Providing supplemental protein will increase fiber digestibility in addition to providing protein to the animal.
Your largest feed expense is stored forage. Your hay and silage is worth more than ever before. Efforts to improve your management of forage storage will result in a good return on your investment.
Utilizing Annual crops as feedstuffs for livestock is a common practice, and in today’s environment of higher forage and pasture costs, it really makes sense. Many and maybe most livestock production systems today involve some sort of farming aspect to the operation. Yes, producing hay is considered farming in some circles but that’s not the point of this blog. In sustainable ranching practices, having the forage resource available and not having to purchase significant amounts of additional forages or supplements is a key indicator of profitability.
In many areas of the central and northern plains states, spring has sprung early this year. I’ve heard locals in these areas comment that grasses, trees and shrubs are anywhere from 2-4 weeks ahead of normal; certainly the temperatures would agree with that. I was in the Canadian province of Ontario the last week of March and I heard that some folks had already planted small grains and even corn, just to say they did it in March. Grass (native or tame pasture) is truly a crop and livestock are the harvesting equipment. With the early spring and green up occurring, it is tempting to let the grazing begin now. High forage costs also make it tempting, but let’s take a closer look.