I really like fall forage regrowth, sometimes it is some of the best forage of the season. It is certainly not as “washy” as early spring growth and normally grows up and through slightly drier forages making the grazed forages more balanced with protein to fiber. This can provide some very nice feed to graze and hopefully some stockpiled forage for later in the year. Fall regrowth for stockpiling should ideally be deferred until after the plant goes dormant, normally after a few nights below 26 degrees.
It is early October and corn and beans are being harvested. Because of the wet spring, some are being harvested later than normal which creates less of a window of opportunity to plant some fall annuals for grazing. The less risky forages at this point in time would include cereal rye, winter wheat, winter triticale, and winter peas and perhaps for the southern half of the state, annual ryegrass. These have potential for some fall or early winter grazing, but good potential for some early spring grazing. Planted into corn residue, there is a good balance of protein to fiber available. If you are grazing growing animals (like stockers or replacement heifers), winter annuals will more likely produce better gains than just running them on stockpiled perennial forages.
We need to continue to look for opportunities for grazing and extending the grazing season. I’ve probably said that one too many times, but it never hurts to say it again. There are several producers around that are shooting for little or no hay to be fed as their ultimate goal. This is really pushing the system quite a bit, not to say it can’t be done, but you better have a great contingency plan. For most of us here in Indiana, I think we should initially shoot for just trying to reduce hay feeding days down to 120 days. That is a big change for most producers. If you are already at that point, good for you, can you reduce it down to what I consider really good…60 days or less? “Today” is always a good time to take the time to figure your inventory of forage which includes standing grazable forage, hay or other stored winter feed. What are you going to need to feed everything until new growth next spring? Sharpen the pencil and work out a balance sheet, remember to figure in some loss in feeding, and about 3 percent dry matter intake for all animals. A 1,200 pound cow will eat about 36 pounds of dry matter per day. 120 days of hay for her will be roughly 4,320 pounds. Depending on the quality of that hay, supplementation may be needed.