Forage Utilization

Efficacy of Grazing Stockpiled Perennial Forages for Winter Maintenance of Beef Cows

  • Andrew C. Hitz (Iowa State University)
  • James R. Russell (Iowa State University)
  • Dennis R. Maxwell (Iowa State University)
  • L. J. Secor (Iowa State University)


In a three year study, wintering systems utilizing the grazing of stockpiled perennial hay crop forages or corn crop residues were compared to maintaining cows in a drylot. In the summer of 1992, two cuttings of hay were harvested (June 22 and August 2) from three 10-acre fields containing “Johnstone” endophyte-free tall fescue and “Spreador II” alfalfa, and one cutting of hay was harvested from three 10- acre fields of smooth brome grass. “Arlington” red clover was frost-seeded into the smooth bromegrass fields in 1993 and into tall fescue-alfalfa and smooth bromegrass fields into 1994. Two cuttings of hay were harvested from all fields in subsequent years, and three-year average hay yields for tall fescue-alfalfa and smooth bromegrass-red clover were 4,336 and 3,481 pounds per acre, respectively. Regrowth of the forage following the August hay harvest of each year was accumulated for winter grazing. Following a killing frost in each year, two fields of each stockpiled forage were stocked with cows in midgestation at two acres per cow. Two 10-acre fields of corn crop residues were also stocked at two acres per cow, following the grain harvest. Mean dry matter forage yields at the initiation of grazing were 1,853, 2,173 and 5,797 pounds per acre for fields containing tall fescue-alfalfa, smooth bromegrass-red clover, and cornstalks, respectively. A drylot was stocked with 18 cows in 1992 and 1993 and 10 cows in 1994. All cows were fed hay as necessary to maintain a body condition score of five. During grazing, mean losses of organic matter were -6.4, -7.6, and -10.7 pounds per acre per cow from tall fescue-alfalfa, smooth bromegrass-red clover, and cornstalk fields. Average organic matter loss rates from stockpiled forages due to weathering alone were equal to only 30% of the weathering losses of the corn crop residues. In vitro digestibility of both stockpiled forages and cornstalks decreased at equal rates during grazing each year, with respective annual loss rates of .14, .08, and .06% per day. Cows grazing corn crop residues required an average of 1,321 pounds per cow less hay than cows maintained in the drylot to maintain equivalent body condition during the grazing season. Cows grazing tall fescue-alfalfa or smooth bromegrass-red clover had body weight gains and condition score changes equal to cows maintained in a drylot but required 64% and 62% less harvested hay than cows in the drylot during the grazing season. Over the entire stored forage cows grazing tall fescue-alfalfa and smooth bromegrass-red clover required an average of 2,390 and 2,337 pounds per cow less than those maintained in the drylot. Because less hay was needed to maintain cows grazing stockpiled forages, average annual excesses of 5,629 and 3,868 pounds of hay dry matter per cow remained in the stockpiled tall fescue-alfalfa and smooth bromegrass-red clover systems.

Keywords: ASL R1350

How to Cite:

Hitz, A. C., Russell, J. R., Maxwell, D. R. & Secor, L. J., (1997) “Efficacy of Grazing Stockpiled Perennial Forages for Winter Maintenance of Beef Cows”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 1(1).

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Published on
01 Jan 1997
Peer Reviewed