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Southeast: Forage and herd nutrition steps for success

Kim Mullenix for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 March 2021

Spring is a good time to reflect on goals for the upcoming production season and do some “housekeeping” in terms of making sure things are in shape during our peak forage growing season.

Remember the following this spring to optimize forage and nutritional management on your farm for the upcoming season:

  • Don’t repeatedly graze pastures too short. It is easy to leave cattle in a pasture area and not think to move them to a new area until we visibly notice there is almost no forage remaining in the field. At that point, we may move the cattle but don’t often think about the effect this practice has on our forage production potential. In our perennial grass-based systems, this practice over time can continuously deplete the root system of our forages and begin to create an opportunity for other, undesirable plants to come in and compete for water and nutrients. A shallower root system also decreases the ability of a forage to withstand periods of drought, further reducing persistence. Evaluate your stocking rate and available forage resources to make sure you have the optimum number of animals for your farm. Simply having fewer animals might be the easy answer to more productive pastures.

  • Conduct a soil test on pastures and hayfields. Early spring is a great time of year to go ahead and collect a soil sample on pastures and hayfields to prepare for the upcoming growing season. This allows time to interpret the test report and apply nutrients to the system as needed. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, we get delayed on conducting our soil test and may even skip this step completely. Making sure we conduct our soil tests and plan our amendments accordingly allows fertilizer resources, especially lime, to work more effectively as part of our system and can help us maintain a desirable level of forage production on our farms.

  • Minerals matter year-round. It is easy to drive by the mineral feeder and not think twice about checking it because we view it as part of the landscape on the farm. It takes time for cattle to regulate their intake on a mineral, and consistency is key for them to consume a product fairly evenly over a period of time. Take a step back, check the mineral feeder, provide a product consistently, and monitor the consumption over time to get a true picture of how a product is working for your program. Over the course of a year, your cost per head will be lower by keeping mineral in the feeder versus trying to fill them up after they have gone without for any period of time.  end mark
Kim Mullenix
  • Kim Mullenix

  • Extension Beef Specialist/Associate Professor
  • Auburn University
  • Email Kim Mullenix