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Fall is coming - It's time to move the cows

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Fall is coming - It's time to move the cows

We are quickly entering the fall season and for most spring calving herds, summer pasture rotations have been made to match moisture and growing conditions to maintain a supply of high-quality forages — but plants mature, and leaf growth for most grasses has slowed down. With this plant maturation comes fiber lignification, along with lower digestibility and a rapid reduction in energy availability, even with the capacity for rumen fermentation. The digestive passage rate decreases, as it takes longer to break down forages with increased rumination and fermentation times. This means that forages that once easily met beef cow requirements now no longer offer the nutrient supply needed to maintain cow body weight and body condition.

Extending the grazing period

Rather than trying to round up new pastures or bring higher-quality forages to the cow herd, crop aftermath, corn stalk grazing, stockpiled forages, etc., are all ways of extending the grazing period and are resources that should not go unused. Some regions of the country may not have access to these options, but many do, and the opportunity to cut feed costs by capitalizing on them can be significant.

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As these acres become available after harvest, fencing and sourcing water should be considered, as should getting cattle to these new locations. When cattle are first introduced to cropland aftermath and corn stalks, the pickings will be good; there can be significant, nutrient-dense remnants left over from harvesting equipment that cattle will sort through, along with un-grazed headlands. Over time, these diminish, but there is still ample forage that, when paired with a protein supplement, can maximize returns from this land resource and maintain cow performance.