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Wheat re-growth offers fall grazing opportunities

South Dakota State University Published on 13 October 2010

Some producers are seeing significant re-growth in wheat fields this fall, and it can provide excellent late-season grazing for cows and weaned calves.

That’s according to South Dakota Cooperative Extension Range Livestock Production Specialist Eric Mousel, who said proper management of this forage can help producers avoid problems.

“We have had a couple of light frosts in some areas, but not a heavy killing frost, so nitrates are still a concern,” Mousel said. “Cows will tolerate higher concentrations of nitrates than calves, but producers should always test small grain re-growth for nitrates.”

Mousel said most expectations do not point to nitrate problems in 2010, but that wheat re-growth is a grazing forage susceptible to this issue.

“Re-growth should be sampled in four or five random spots across the field, and then sent in for a nitrate test,” said Mousel. “Samples should be clipped at ground level and put in a sealable plastic bag. The sample doesn’t need to be very big, half a handful per sample is plenty.”

Producers can send their samples to a private testing lab or to the South Dakota State University Oscar E. Olson Biochemistry Laboratory, SAS 133, Box 2170, 1029 N. Campus Dr., Brookings, SD 57007.

Mousel said another management concern on wheat re-growth is grass tetany, a disease also known as grass staggers.

“Grass tetany is usually associated with spring grazing, however, it can be a bigger problem in the fall when grazing small grain forage,” Mousel said. “Cows and calves that feed on wheat re-growth should be supplemented with magnesium to avoid problems with tetany.”

Mousel said high-magnesium minerals or other supplements now may be harder to find since grass tetany is typically thought of as a concern in the spring. Producers should source magnesium supplements before turning out cattle on wheat re-growth.

For other questions on grazing management, call Mousel at 605-688-5455. end_mark

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