Photo caption: Fall pasture walk, Nicole Santangelo, PSU
There are two classes of forages that are available to use in the late fall and early winter for grazing. Stockpiled forages from growth earlier in the season and cool-season forages that continue to grow into the fall. This fall we have been fortunate to have conditions that allow forages to continue growing across most of the state. In Potter County, Pennsylvania, we have found that most of our pastures have moved into dormancy.
How will this affect spring regrowth?
A 2009-2010 grazing study at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center (USDRFC) showed no impact on spring regrowth when forages were grazed late in the fall before frost. There are factors that significantly impact spring regrowth, but it appears that fall grazing just prior and well after fall frosts is not a factor.
What is the harm in grazing dormant forages?
Great benefits can be found in taking advantage of fall pastures and stockpiled forages. More information on how to do so can be found in our article “Strategies for Extending the Grazing Season”
Here are a few tips to be sure you don’t put fall pastures at risk:
- Watch soil conditions. You may need to remove animals if and when we return to wetter weather to prevent damage to forages and soil from trampling action.
- In accordance with your manure management and grazing plans, maintain dense vegetation, grass height 3 inches or more and minimize bare spots.
- Plan to graze taller. Grasses and winter forage crops help hold snow in the field, insulating the ground. Taller grasses have benefits to wildlife and soil biology.
Unfortunately, it is too late in the season to stockpile forages. For those in southeast there may be a little time left to plant a winter forage such as rye for spring grazing, but it is likely too late for fall. Enjoy the mild weather while it lasts, and take advantage of these green fall pastures.