A dry summer could have many producers making changes to their late summer grazing program, including stockpiling forage for after harvest and into winter.
Parts of southern Iowa and northern Missouri experienced moderate to severe drought this summer, and even with recent rains, grass availability is tight.
“You still have some who will go ahead with their stockpiling plans, but that really depends on how much rain they received,” says Joe Sellers, Iowa State University Extension beef specialist.
“I think you definitely will see people cut back on stockpiling, because many of them are already feeding hay.”
He says recent rainfall has perked up pastures. Hay supplies from the first cutting were short, but the quality was excellent.
But supplies should continue to dwindle, Sellers says.
“We did well early with hay, but since they are already feeding it, supplies are going to be short later,” he says.
Even a late-season fertilizer application will not help, he says, because the days for re-growth are running short.
Because of the short pastures, producers may want to look at decreasing the size of paddocks when grazing.
“An electric wire will help with keeping them out until you need the grass,” says Pat Miller, University of Missouri Extension agronomist in Nevada.
“Also, most of the pastures are fescue, and with its waxy leaves it’s not as susceptible to cold weather, so you can extend your grazing season.”
She says most producers will get two cuttings of fescue. Miller says a rainy spring prevented haying in a timely manner, so first-cutting quality is poor.
“You need to test it to see what you will need to supplement it with,” she says.
Sellers says poor forage is likely to need both protein and energy supplementation to help cows maintain body condition.
He says there are concerns about hay prices, adding moisture in August could spur grass growth enough for producers to get another hay cutting.
“There are people who are going to be able to do that,” Sellers says. “A lot of folks are worried about prices and availability. We’ll have to see how it goes through the winter.”