Extending the Grazing Season
A typical cool-season grass growth curve is presented in Fig. 6-1. Tall fescue, as a cool-season grass, makes most of its growth during the cooler months of spring and autumn (Fig. 6-2), typically producing more than two-thirds of its annual production by late June or early July in its area of adaptation.
Hot, dry months of summer usually result in low production, often referred to as the "summer slump" (Fig. 6-3 and 6-4) during which both quality and quantity of forage are insufficient to meet animal needs. The magnitude of the summer slump depends on the frequency and duration of high temperatures and especially on the extent to which soil moisture is deficient. Late summer, autumn, and early winter can account for substantial production and, with practices such as stockpiling (i.e., accumulation in situ), can extend grazing periods, thus reducing the amount of hay and/or silage needed for winter feeding.
This chapter discusses management strategies that can extend the pasture season by providing early grazing (Fig. 6-5 , 6-6) and late grazing (Fig. 6-7, 6-8), and can help fill in the production gap that occurs during summer months (Fig. 6-9, 6-10).
Developing an overall management strategy for tall fescue involving different practices for the same field or different fields (Fig. 6-11) can lead to a sustainable forage production system that optimizes grazing days, minimizes stored feed requirements, and reduces the cost of livestock production.
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|Fig. 6-10. Beef cattle grazing a tall fescue-red clover mixture in summer. Photo by Garry Lacefield.||
Fig. 6-11. Typical forage growth curve that results from management strategies that include both N fertilizer (dashed line) on tall fescue (line) and legume interseeding, and warm season grasses (dot-dash line) in an adjoining field.