You don’t have to be a weather expert to know that this spring/summer has been plain nuts. From tragic storms and severe flooding to drought, no one is really having an easy time of it. Here in the upper Midwest, we’ve had the range of odd weather for what should be summer, but sometimes feels like early spring. The upside of this crazy weather is that cows have grass up to their bellies or even over their backs. However, tall grass doesn’t have what your cows need.
Cool season grasses, which dominate pastures in the upper Midwest, grew rapidly last month with all the rain and cooler temperatures. This led to pastures and hay getting away from some. Some might not see an issue with grass that is up to the cow’s belly or even over the back. It means there’s plenty to eat, right?
The answer may surprise you. Watch your cattle in that tall grass; where are their heads? Are they eating the tops and seed heads on mature grass? Probably not, it’s more likely that they have their heads down, doing their best to pick out any new growth. As the plant grows taller, it has to re-enforce the stalk to keep it up right. You could compare it to building a sky scraper. You have to have a stronger frame the taller you go. The same holds true for a plant. Structural fibers in the plant ‘harden’ as it grows and matures. These structural fibers are harder for the rumen bugs to digest. Additionally, the increase in the amount of structural fiber in the plant means fewer nutrients on a pound for pound basis compared to younger grass. This means that there are fewer nutrients available to the cow when eating mature, tall grass.
The solutions to tall grass issue are plenty. Haying is a viable option to remove excess growth before it becomes over-mature. Harvested hay can be stored for the winter or sold. Some producers will bush hog pastures to keep the plants in a growth stage. Keeping the grass between 4 and 6 to 8 inches will hold it in the growth stage. Rotational grazing, while management and input intensive, is an excellent tool to utilize all of your grass. Producers have the option of haying paddocks when the grass is growing fast. Supplementing cattle with a protein and mineral supplement is another viable option if mowing or haying isn’t. Research has shown up to a 10% increase in forage utilization when supplementing protein. Providing a supplement which includes minerals, macro and micro, will ensure that your animals aren’t missing anything nutritionally.
CRYSTALYX® offers a number of protein supplements with complete mineral and vitamin profiles to fit any grazing situation. Proven consistent intakes ensure that your cows will get the nutrients they need every time. Click on the ‘How It Works’ tab above and select Grazing Management to learn more about how CRYSTALYX® can work for you on your pastures.