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Stockpiling Forages for Fall Grazing

Even though the weather is hot, it is time to prep fields for stockpiled bermudagrass for fall. There may appear to be a lot of forage available now, but that can change quickly in 30 days without advance planning.


It’s time to prep fields for fall stockpiled forage


Stockpiling bermudagrass or fescue for fall and winter grazing is one of the most reliable forage practices available for extending the grazing season. Farm demonstrations have consistently shown a positive savings when comparing cost and yield of stockpiled forage versus harvesting and feeding hay.

Producers often hesitate upon hearing that fields planned for stockpiling bermudagrass (or bahiagrass) should be fertilized in early to mid-August. They have been told for years that most of the nitrogen from urea fertilizer will be lost due to volatilization when applied during hot weather. I have heard coop managers tell this to customers and other forage specialists have stated the same thing. But, based on actual research, that is simply not true. Urea is a viable fertilizer N source if ammonium nitrate is not available. Arkansas research trials on bermudagrass showed yield differences between those N sources ranged from 0 to 15% with a majority of the studies showing less than a 10% difference. So if urea is the primary N source carried by local dealers, use it. If there is concern about a 10% yield difference, add 5-6 lbs/acre more N to cover it.

 Timing is very important to produce a good fall bermudagrass stockpile. Arkansas research on stockpiling bermudagrass shows that at Batesville and Fayetteville, delaying N application from August 1 to September 1 reduced forage dry matter yield as much as 60-80%. In south Arkansas that date could be moved from August 1 to August 15. Each day closer to September reduces warm season grass yield potential and viability of making fertilizer applications economical.

Timing for fertilizing stockpiled fescue is the last week of August to the first week of September. Our research showed that early September is the optimum time to apply nitrogen fertilizer. Waiting until early to mid-October produced no more dry matter yield than the unfertilized control.

So if producers need fall forage, fertilizing for stockpiled forage is a good option, but timing is important. Other options for fall forage include planting pearl millet or browntop millet the last of August. Browntop millet has a very fast growth cycle and can provide grazing in 30 days. Planting oats or brassicas in early September also works well for grazing in November and December. Ryegrass is a poor fall forage producer, but can be mixed with winter or summer annual forages to produce grazing later in spring.

By Jennifer Caraway
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jennifer Caraway
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
1007 Jefferson Avenue, Texarkana, AR 71854
(870) 779-3609

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