Using Perennials

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Perennial pasture can provide a considerable quantity of good feed for cattle grazing during the fall, into the winter or in the spring once the snow has melted. This feed resource is less expensive than hay or silage.
  • To achieve adequate forage growth for dormant season grazing, plan well in advance of the growing season to ensure adequate fertility, and to allow for adequate time for regrowth before the growing season ends.
  • Forage stands must be grazed and allowed to recover to an adequate quantity of regrowth to make stockpiled grazing successful. Depending on growing conditions, livestock must be removed from the stand during the growing season to allow enough time for the stand to regrow before winter.
  • Timing is critical in achieving the appropriate quality and quantity of material. When quality is more important, regrowth age must be younger at the expense of volume. When quantity is more important, regrowth age must be older at the expense of quality.
  • Adequate soil fertility enhances regrowth of the stand and extends the grazing time into the fall and winter.
  • Faster regrowing species will provide more material for grazing than slower regrowing species. Species must also be selected for their ability to grow late into the fall and for their ability to remain available to animals once dormant. Do not select species that shatter once dormant.
  • Cows milk well and weaned calves grow well late into the fall on high quality regrowth.
  • Cows are highly motivated to graze through up to 10 inches of snow for this high quality feed. Strip grazing increases utilization levels by reducing trampling of the snow, which causes packing that can seal the swath.
  • When left as carryover feed, regrowth material from the previous summer, provides adequate nutrition to newly calved cows or grasser yearlings during the first six weeks following snow melt. Strip grazing of this feed, increases the utilization of the stand by the grazing cows or yearlings.
  • Extending the grazing season improves the economics of cattle production. By increasing the number of grazing days relative to the number of feeding days, costs of cow ownership are reduced because of this lower cost feed.
  • Some mature species contain higher quality forage than others. Russian wildrye, tall fescue, meadow brome, cicer milkvetch and some native grasses (hardgrasses) maintain their quality better through the dormant season.
  • When in doubt, be sure to feed test to determine the protein and energy status of the forage during the dormant season to help determine whether a supplement is required or not. Also monitoring the consistency of the manure will indicate the protein levels of the feed being consumed by the grazing cows.
Fact Sheets

A Quick Guide to Extended Grazing

Grass Seed Residues for Beef Cattle Feed

Grazing Fall Green-Up in Pasture May Take a Bite Out of Next Year's Production - available in PDF format only

Stockpile Production: Does it pay to fertilize in fall given the high cost of nitrogen fertilizer? - available in PDF format only

Stockpiled Pasture: 1. Effect of Management System and Nitrogen Application

Stockpiled Pasture: 3. Effect of Harvest Date on the Yield and Quality of Stockpiled Grass.

Stockpiled Pasture: 4. Performance of Four Grass Species in Stockpiling Systems.

Stockpiled Pasture: 5. Effect of Stockpile Grazing in Fall on Forage Production the Following Season.

Stockpiling Perennial Forages for Fall and Winter Beef Cow Grazing

Year Round Grazing - 365 Days

Research Papers

Accumulation Period for Stockpiling Perennial Forages in the Western Canadian Prairie Parkland - available in PDF format only

Changes in Chemical Composition and Digestion Kinetics of Stockpiled Kura Clover in Late Fall. - available in PDF format only

Efficacy of Grazing Stockpiled Perennial Forages for Winter Maintenance of Beef Cows. - available in PDF format only

Stockpiling Potential of Perennial Forage Species Adapted to the Canadian Western Prairie Parkland - available in PDF format only

The potential of legume-shrub mixtures for optimum forage production in southwestern Saskatchewan: A greenhouse study

Weathering losses of forage species on the fescue grassland in southwestern Alberta - available in PDF format only

Effect of perennial forage system on forage characteristics, soil nutrients, cow performance, and system economics - available in PDF format
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This information published to the web on March 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 1, 2017.

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