Livestock market complications that reduce the ability to sell calves can cause unexpected forage demands. Droughts can lead to forage deficiencies, compounding the problem. Forage shortages can lead to poor animal performance, overgrazed and degraded pastures, and increased expenses. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Utah has provided some strategies to implement when faced with these circumstances that can help minimize forage deficiencies, if you plan ahead.
Forage stockpiling in pastures involves allowing adequate time and moisture to allow 1-2 tons per acre of forage to grow and become dormant, then grazed when winter feeding would typically start, delaying the use of expensive winter hay for several weeks or longer. Practices like strip grazing using electric fences can help ensure efficient and economic use of stockpiled forages. Learn more about stockpiling forage with this NRCS fact sheet and brochure.
Planting cover crops
Cover crops can be immediately planted following the harvest of grain crops, or during fallow in a rotation, that will provide extra forage in the fall that to be harvested or grazed. Many producers in the intermountain west are already inserting full season cover crops for grazing into their cropping rotation. Learn more about grazing cover crops here.
Cover crops in mixtures
Planting cover crops in mixtures can help address several resource concerns at the same time. Mixes can be planned to improve both the quantity and quality of the needed requirements of the land and livestock. Learn more about choosing the right species of cover crop.Additionally, there are several conservation enhancements regarding these strategies that fall under the Conservation Stewardship Program, which encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities. For more information, visit the Utah NRCS office.