The Norman Transcript

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August 9, 2013

Stockpiled grass reduces winter feed costs

NORMAN — Farmers and ranchers are happiest when it’s raining. Then again, if they need to plant, till, feed, spray or fertilize, they are happiest when it’s not.

OK, so farmers and ranchers cannot be pleased with any weather. This is not normally a problem in states like Illinois and Iowa where it generally rains when it’s supposed to. Not the case in Oklahoma. Our weather changes its mind as much as celebrities change spouses.

2011 and 2012 were historic for central Oklahoma, and now 2013 has been as well. Memorable rainfall, flooding and violent tornadoes have been front page news. And we are wet in Cleveland County. These conditions have allowed ag producers to do more than the last two years combined in some cases. This will allow cattle producers to move into the winter months with excellent forage availability. This is especially true for producers who have rotated livestock, maintained excellent soil fertility and kept stocking rates low during the last two years.

Harvested forage costs are a large part of the production costs associated with cow-calf enterprises. For the first time in two years, producers in the eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma will have enough Bermuda grass to consider stockpiling some for winter feed. An Oklahoma State University trial had the objective to economically evaluate stockpiled Bermuda grass. The research found that this practice can reduce cow-wintering costs.

Forage accumulation during the late summer and fall is variable from year to year depending on moisture, temperatures, date of first frost and fertility. This strategy requires that an alternative pasture must be available for cattle to graze from late August to Nov. 1.

OSU research has found that 50 to 100 pounds per acre of actual nitrogen fertilizer applied in the late summer has produced 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of forage per acre. In some ideal situations, even more forage has been produced.

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