The weather across Kentucky this spring was very unpredictable. First crop hay varies from decent yields to very low yields. Pasture availability is below normal for this time of year with most pastures headed out. Soil moisture levels are very low. Producers need to make decisions on forage management and feed alternatives to keep feed costs low while maintaining animal performance.
Pasture and forage strategies
Increase use of rotational grazing. Giving pastures some rest during dry conditions is essential to increasing forage availability as well as reducing overgrazing. During dry conditions, pastures may need 30 to 45 days rest between grazings.
Subdividing pastures with a single strand of high tensile electric or temporary electric fence is a quick and easy way to increase rotational grazing.
Putting a hay field into the rotation will provide extra grazing for cows and rest for other pastures. If second cutting hay crop is short, grazing is more economical than cutting and baling. Producers may need to be creative in order to supply water to cattle grazing hayfields. Options such as large nurse tanks on a hay wagon hooked up to a standard water trough can supply sufficient water for herds of 20 to 30 cows for one to three days. Remember to provide 20 to 30 gallons of water per cow/calf pair per day.