Strip grazing annual forages in the fall: Is it worth the effort?
After about 5 years of fall cover crop grazing, one thing became apparent: the amount of grazing achieved when we gave cattle access to the whole field from the start did not appear to be determined by the amount of forage that was in the field. This was because the weather seemed to determine how much trampling loss occurred. In wet years, we harvested less than 15% of the forage, and on average, we captured about 30%. Thus, it seemed worth asking the question, “Would the extra forage captured with strip grazing be worth the extra labor?” Over the past few years, we conducted a series of on-farm experiments to evaluate the effects of strip grazing on harvest efficiency and cattle performance when utilizing various annual forage resources during the late fall and winter. We had 5 cooperating producers that compared continuous grazing (giving cattle access to a whole field) vs. strip grazing with a new allocation of forage being offered once to twice a week.
What we learned:
- Strip grazing increases carrying capacity, allowing more grazing head days on the same acres. On average, strip grazing resulted in a 47% increase in grazing. This is due to less trampling losses as strip grazing lost an estimated 9% vs. 57% for continuous grazing of forage.
- When grazing growing calves, strip grazing can result in more pounds of gain per acre, and thus, a lower cost of gain. However, due to reduced forage selectivity, individual animal gain can be slightly decreased (6 to 16%).
- Higher quality forages like late-summer planted cool-season species such as oats and brassicas (rapeseed, turnips, etc.) seem to offer more return when strip grazing.
Bottom line, strip grazing does take a little extra effort, but the extra grazing capacity can make it worth it.
Want to hear from producers that are strip grazing?
- Check out the webinar recording, “Is Strip Grazing Worth It? Getting More Out of Fall Forage Cover Crops” in which Brock and Heidi Terrell talk about their operation and give their perspectives on how cover crops fit their systems as well as the benefits of strip grazing cover crops in the fall.
- Rather listen to a podcast? Check out this BeefWatch Podcast in which Doug Steffen, a producer in Eastern NE, talks about how he uses cover crops in an integrated crop and cattle operation.
This project was funded by NCR-SARE grant ONC20-076.
Interviews with the authors of BeefWatch newsletter articles become available throughout the month of publication and are accessible at https://go.unl.edu/podcast. You can subscribe to the BeefWatch newsletter here: http://go.unl.edu/Beefwatch_subscribe