28 (2)Iowa producers generally graze cool season grass or grass-legume pastures – those are the most productive and quality forages for our location. The downside is they produce a lot of grass in the spring and tend to slow down in the summer. Typical yields of brome and orchard can be reduced 40-60% in July and August compared to May and June. Fescue pastures also have the added problem of high alkaloid levels that reduce grass consumption and hurt performance.

What can you do to improve your season-long forage supply? Here are five things to consider:

  1. Management intensive grazing is critical. Keeping the forage vegetative will increase production longer into the summer, and having adequate residual growth and recovery periods will increase the diversity of the forage stand.
  2. Improving diversity with more legumes will improve summer production. Legumes produce more in July and August compared to tall grasses.
  3. Add more forage acres by grazing fields that were hayed in the spring, use summer annuals such as millet or sorghum-sudan grass, or consider using conservation acres with routine grazing of CRP. In the future you could consider seeding part of your pasture with native warm season grasses to fill the summer void.
  4. Supplement the cattle with mixes of corn or soybean co-products such as soybean hull pellets, corn gluten feed or distillers grains with solubles. Recent research indicates that soybean hulls can be helpful in reducing the impact of fescue toxicosis, and any dilution and supplementation we add can improve performance and help extend available forage.
  5. Wean calves earlier if grass is short. This will allow the cows to gain weight on less pounds of forage, and the calves can be fed efficient and cost effective diets.

Source: Joe Sellers, ISU Extension beef program specialist