Make Most of Your Fall Grazing

Dr. Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Perry County
(Previously published online in Farm Progress – Ohio Farmer: September 22, 2023)

Take forage samples to determine what nutrient values are in the crop.

Depending on what part of the state or country you live in, this year has been another challenge with pastures and forages. Hay yields are all over the board as far as quantity.

Many in my area were able to get the first cutting off in great time this spring, but the quality has been surprisingly lower than expected. So as many finish up haymaking, now is a good time to take inventory of what you have and take forage samples to determine what nutrient values are in the crop.

If you find yourself with low forages going into fall, some options may include using land coming out of CRP contracts, cornstalks, cover crops, or a hayfield being converted into row crops.

Fall is an ideal time to construct new fencing, or repair existing, or implement temporary fencing. First evaluate what forage and water resources you have available. Other factors to consider are what type of livestock you have, and what type of fence will keep them contained.

All of these revolve around what materials are available, what are the costs and your time. Making these decisions is easier than ever before. We now can generate aerial photos to measure acreages with permanent fencing, determine exclusion areas, hayfields, and cropland.

Once you have a plan, keep it simple and flexible. Having a good perimeter fence allows for many more options. This reduces the safety hazard and liability concern of livestock on roads, or damage to field crops and gardens on neighboring properties.

The more limited the forages, the more livestock are going to test the fence. Limiting access to smaller sections of interior pastures and moving more often will help maintain forage quality, reducing livestock pressure on fencing.

Temporary fencing options
Temporary fencing options have expanded in recent years. Don’t be tempted to use the cheapest and least efficient fencing equipment. More often this leads to more frustration and a shorter life span. The other concern is wildlife. Small braid or wire with low visibility is often damaged by deer. Good-quality visible polywire or tape, reels and posts, and adequate energizer will make the fall grazing season more flexible and enjoyable.

To have an effective electric fence to keep livestock contained and predators out is determined by what type of fence you have, the energizer and proper grounding. There are several types of energizers with some nice features on the market today.

The 110-volt plug-in type energizers typically will be the most economical for the most power. Battery energizers are portable and can be used in remote areas when electricity is not available. Generally, a 12-volt rechargeable, “D” cell or 9-volt disposable battery is used.

Solar energizers can also be used in remote areas, but they typically have the highest cost. Multipowered energizers, which combine any or all of the previously mentioned types, are a great feature if you are moving livestock from areas that have electric power to others that do not.

Whatever situation you’re in moving into fall, take time to observe your forages and livestock. With grazing livestock, we are forage farmers first, only using livestock to manage them. Permanent pastures should be managed for the long term. Flexible fencing helps take advantage of those crops that can be used in years where we need to adjust for adversity.