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Pasture management: winter feeding.

Hay, perhaps supplemented with grain, is a common method of winter feeding.

Putting up your own hay makes sense only for the very small producer (e.g., hand-cutting, raking and hauling) or medium to large producers who can achieve economic returns on the equipment required. Thus, purchased hay will be the most common approach for most homesteaders who need too much hay to put up by hand but not enough to justify owning a mower, rake, and baler (as well as a tractor and tillage and planting equipment if they're not available or needed for other uses). Several aspects to keep in mind:

Buying hay from retailers (e.g., feed mills or garden centers) would be the most expensive approach. The savings which would result from direct producer purchase, either picked up or delivered, will go a long way to pay for a storage facility. Arranging for field pick-up will save money over delivery, but does involve additional labor on your part.

While rectangular bales are the norm, several equipment manufacturers make trailers which can be used for round bales, One such bale mover/feeder is produced by Bill Ceder, Rt. 1 Box 8, Central City, NE 68826,phone (308) 946-2819. The trailer is backed up to a bale, the bale tipped onto the trailer with a four foot spike and hand winch and then the rear of the trailer closed. Up to 16 animals can feed at one time and the trailer tongue is removable so the animals can't step or trip on it as they feed.

The Priefert Mfg., Co., (Drawer 1540, Mt. Pleasant, TX 75455, phone (214) 572-2798 -- or call (800) 527-8616 for the nearest dealer) produces a single-bale hay dolly/trailer to transport bales. Other producers of movers which mount on a pickup truck are:

* Wigness Construction, Box 14, Admiral, Sask., Canada S0N 0B0, (306) 297-6264 (will both move and unroll).

* R.W. Cupps, HCR 78, Santa Anna, TX 76878, (915) 348-3025. * LDM Enterprises, Box 1347, Cardston, Alberta, Canada T0K 0K0, (403) 653-2120.

Each time hay is cut it removes trace elements and minerals from the field. ("He who sells hay, sells his land.") Conversely, if you purchase hay, you are buying these along with the nutrition in the hay itself. What your livestock don't use will be deposited in the manure.

While having hay custom cut and baled in your own field is an option, your custom cutter may not be available when the job needs to be done. Payment in the form of a portion of the baleage also allows trace elements and minerals to be removed from your property.

In addition to baled hay, there are several options which can be used to either supplement or reduce the quantity required.

Standing hay: Standing hay is normal forage left ungrazed for later use. During the fall entire paddocks, or portions of paddocks, are allowed to go ungrazed. This standing hay is then rationed out a bit each day until spring. However, since standing hay is mature forage (and lower in quality than green forage) it may need to be supplemented with additional protein and/or energy, particularly if growth rather than mere maintenance is desired during this period. Livestock should have access to other paddocks.

Feed banking: This procedure is to leave increasing amounts of residual in each paddock until such time as a sufficient amount is banked for further use through an allocation program. The livestock is generally allowed to lax graze all the pasture area behind the portion remaining to be allocated. Feed banking works best on legumes or temperate grasses.

Living hay: This is similar to standing hay in that it is done on a smaller scale, generally in one or more paddocks. The area is normally planted to a high quality grass or legume or even annual, such as barley. Small grains make good fattening forage. The area used should be central to the grazing area, have reasonably easy access and be laid out so strip or break grazing a small portion is possible. Some sort of fertilization and/or irrigation program may be required to improve the quality going into the feeding season. The normal procedure for living hay is to graze the animals on regular pastures (poorer forage), including using baled hay as required, during the morning and early afternoon. In the late afternoon the animals are shifted to the portion of the living hay which has been allocated for that day. The animals remain in the paddock until it is grazed for the desired time, usually one or two hours, then are moved back to the poorer forage. Living hay is not a forage substitution program, it is a supplement or dessert to the normal grazing.

Winter annual seeding: This procedure is used when most of the pasture area is warm-season forage. A winter annual is interplanted, sod seeding preferred or broadcasted, and is then used to provide winter grazing.

Double cropping: Double cropping is used on cropland. After the crops are harvested, a cool season grass or grain is planted and used for winter grazing exclusively or to supplement other grazing.

Gleaning: Depending on the corn harvester, quite a bit of eared corn is left in the field. This can provide supplemental feeding by allowing the livestock to go over the field to harvest it. This practice has been enhanced through the use of the new style of electric fencing which allows reasonably inexpensive animal control. The crop grower benefits in that it reduces the volunteer growth in next year's crop, plus adding some fertilizer in the form of manure on the field. This may benefit a homesteader who lives next to cropland.

Standing crop harvesting: In this case a crop is grown, normally corn, but is left unharvested. At the appropriate time, livestock is turned into the field to harvest the grain and stalks. You may be able to find a local farmer willing to custom plant corn in your field (since some grasses wouldn't be a problem, only limited post-planting cultivation would be required) or, if a neighbor, to sell you a portion of his crop to be left standing, with the remainder of the field gleaned. For hogs, at one time it was standard practice to plant pumpkins among the corn for harvesting by the hogs at the same time.

In addition to the above, making grass silage is not beyond consideration for the homesteader. However, keep in mind silage effluent is acidic and high in nutrients which can contaminate water sources. New Zealand researchers consider silage effluent to be 40 times the pollution potential of dairyshed wastes.

The effluent amounts can be reduced by field wilting for at least six hours. Research has shown that fresh pasture silage effluent is nutritious with high concentrations of proteins, lactic acid and soluble carbohydrates. Cattle and hogs will consume it readily.

While throwing hay over a fence or from the back of a pickup is certainly easier than some of the above methods, it may also be far more costly. Introduction of the new type of electric fencing with stronger wire and far higher voltage chargers has greatly facilitated using standing forage for winter grazing on an economic basis.

Research at the Oklahoma State University indicates giving grazing livestock supplemental feed every other day, rather than daily, produces more economical results because they are forced to forage for feed on the other days.

This system also frees up time to do other things.
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Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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