Stockpiling forage is accumulating standing forage dry matter for deferred grazing. In the case of tall fescue, stockpiling involves fertilizing pastures in late summer or early autumn with N, allowing them to grow, and then grazing them during late fall and winter (Matches, 1979).
The main reason to stockpile pastures relates to feed supply. Stockpiling provides a source of inexpensive grazing when pastures are not producing new forage. It allows managers to extend grazing well beyond the growing season, reducing the need for purchased or stored inputs such as hay, silage, and dehydrated forages. When properly grazed, stockpiled tall fescue permits cattle to distribute their manure evenly over the pasture, returning nutrients to the soil, rather than allowing manure to accumulate in a small area where hay feeding is done. Stockpiling also promotes taller canopy growth than when the pasture is grazed. Taller growth results in stand thinning over the autumn and winter, favoring the establishment of legumes by interseeding because more light penetrates the canopy the following spring.
Tall fescue is an ideal crop to stockpile during autumn. The leaves of cultivars used in the United States have a waxy surface that protects them from winter weathering. Most of these cultivars grow upright, making them more accessible to grazing animals than more decumbent cultivars that can be flattened easily against the soil surface. Also, tall fescue has a long autumn growing season. It completes its reproductive cycle in the spring, allowing autumn growth to contain a great deal of high-quality leaf material. In early grazing studies, steers grazing tall fescue during winter gained more than those grazing orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) (Hobbs et al., 1965; Baker et al., 1965). In laboratory comparisons, Wedin et al. (1966) found that autumn-grown tall fescue had higher forage quality than orchardgrass, smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.), or reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.).
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