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Good shot of the Blue Heeler supervising. You know, if Heelers had thumbs they wouldn't need humans.
Yeah, he's pretty much the boss...His red heeler brother was out there that day too, but was probably harassing some poor bovine and didn't get him in any of the shots.
 

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In the past I have always got my calves up to about 800 pounds on pasture and a small amount of feed, then got them on full corn/protein until they went to the butcher. I have used rotational grazing with them, so that's not foreign, but I have never finished one on solely grass. I am purchasing 5 yearling steers in June and am excited to try finishing them on grass. My concern is next winter. I have my pasture baled in the the summer which is fescue/clover. I am planning on giving them these bales, but I'm wondering if I should purchase some better quality hay (alfalfa) to keep them growing over the snow covered days? I thought about buying some small squares and just feeding them in a hay feeder. I'm in southern Iowa and a year like this one has me concerned about getting them good pasture, since we have had a layer of ice and snow the calves can't find grass through for almost two months.

I would recommend staying away from fescue. As an old farmer told me, fescue hay beats a snowball, due to it's very rapid protein loss after it reaches the boot stage in growth. As high as 1% drop per day.

Tall fescue has a reputation of being poor hay, but most of the reason for the reputation is fescue hay is baled too late in the growing season.

Any time a cool season plant matures, forage quality drops rapidly. Crude protein will drop up to 0.5 percent per day from boot stage to mature seed stage.

Hay cut at an earlier stage of maturity is lower in fiber. This increases digestibility and enables cattle to eat more of it. As a result of higher intake of more digestible forage, animal performance is much higher.

The secret of quality fescue hay is adequate fertility and early cutting. Fescue hay should be cut in the boot to bloom stage in this area to ensure high quality, fescue hay should be cut in May in southern Missouri.


https://cedarrepublican.com/arcives...cle_704aa36a-cd4f-5127-9e38-75f323ce4692.html
Stage of maturity
The stage of maturity at time of harvest is one of the most important factors affecting forage quality.

Most forages will have a 20 percent loss in TDN (total digestible nutrients) and a 40 percent loss in protein by a delay of only 10 days past the most desirable stage of harvest. For instance, alfalfa-grass mixtures cut when the alfalfa is in the late bud to early bloom stage will often contain 65 percent TDN and 18 percent protein. Contrast this to cutting at the half-bloom stage or later, with 48 to 50 percent TDN and 12 percent protein. This is a 20 percent loss in the value of the hay.

Grasses, which are somewhat lower in feed potential than legumes to start with, follow the same decreasing pattern in feeding value as they mature. Grasses such as fescue and orchardgrass will often be as low as 6 percent crude protein after blooming when the seeds are beginning to form.

Legume-grass mixtures should be harvested when the legume reaches the desired stage of maturity regardless of the growth stage of the grass.

If the plants are not under stress conditions, the recommended stages of maturity for harvesting common forage plants in Missouri are:

  • Alfalfa: bud to 1/10 bloom.
  • Red clover: 1/4 to 1/2 bloom.
  • Timothy: late boot.
  • Bromegrass: heads emerged.
  • Orchardgrass: blooms emerged.
  • Reed canarygrass: heads emerged.
  • Tall fescue: boot stage.
Overall losses due to late hay making can reach staggering proportions. Shattering and wilting losses are always proportionately higher with late-cut than with early-cut forages. Such as economic loss affects the profit of livestock farms.

The four major contributors to feed value losses in hay are:

  • Late cutting losses in digestibility: 20 percent.
  • Wilting losses in the swath: 5 percent.
  • Shattering of leaves: 20 percent.
  • Too high moisture at time of baling: 15 to 25 percent.
Making and Storing Quality Hay

Another drawback to fescue is endophyte toxicity.


Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is Missouri's most widely used forage crop. It is insect and nematode resistant, tolerates poor soil and climatic conditions well and has a long growing season. Unfortunately, tall fescue also has a downside. Most tall fescue in the state is infected with a fungal endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum (formerly called Acremonium coenophialum) that is toxic to animals.

Tall fescue was brought to this country from Europe in the late 1800s. It was officially discovered in Kentucky in 1931, tested at the University of Kentucky and released in 1943 as "Kentucky 31." It became popular with farmers in the mid- to late-1940s and 1950s, spreading quickly throughout the midwestern and southern United States. Today it is accounts for well over 40 million acres of pasture and forage land in this country. In Missouri alone, tall fescue covers approximately 17 million acres.

Early producers of tall fescue were excited by the ease with which they could establish and maintain a stand. Soon, however, conflicting reports began circulating. For some reason animals were not performing well when allowed to graze tall fescue. Research into the causes of poor animal performance resulted in the discovery of a small fungus that grows between the cells. This fungus came to be known as the "endophyte" because it was "in" (endo) the "plant" (phyte). Follow-up research revealed that this endophyte could produce ergot-like alkaloids under certain conditions.


Tall Fescue Toxicosis
My in-laws had it go through their small herd. Cows had their switches drop off. Several had toes slough off. One was crippled because of that and had to be put down. A lot of people pasture their cattle on fescue, but if I was going for grass fed beef I would try to establish a better forage. One of the best combinations I have seen is alfalfa and orchard grass.

Check out Polyface Farms. Joel Salatin goes around giving seminars. You might pick up some good ideas from their site.


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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I would recommend staying away from fescue. As an old farmer told me, fescue hay beats a snowball, due to it's very rapid protein loss after it reaches the boot stage in growth. As high as 1% drop per day.





Another drawback to fescue is endophyte toxicity.



My in-laws had it go through their small herd. Cows had their switches drop off. Several had toes slough off. One was crippled because of that and had to be put down. A lot of people pasture their cattle on fescue, but if I was going for grass fed beef I would try to establish a better forage. One of the best combinations I have seen is alfalfa and orchard grass.

Check out Polyface Farms. Joel Salatin goes around giving seminars. You might pick up some good ideas from their site.


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Thank you for the information. The pasture I am rotating them through is fescue with a heavy amount of red and white clover. They are southpoll, so I'm hoping they will be able to thrive on my grass.
 

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Thank you for the information. The pasture I am rotating them through is fescue with a heavy amount of red and white clover. They are southpoll, so I'm hoping they will be able to thrive on my grass.
From what I have seen. the major issue with fescue is plant maturity. If it is in the pre to boot stage it is not bad feed. Around here many do not cut it for hay until June around a month past optimum harvesting time, therefore the resulting hay is of a very poor quality.

Do you follow behind and clip the pastures after you rotate the cattle off of them?


Why Should You Clip Pastures? - Ozarks Farm & Neighbor - Ozarks' Most Read Farm Newspaper.
 
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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
I have always baled my pasture then ran the cattle through it. This is my first year only grazing. I am going to see what kind of plants return after they have covered an area and it has some time to recover.

I have three separate areas on my farm. One is my main pasture that I have been rotating for a few years (after baling). It has a heavy stand of clover. The next two areas are harder for me to get my cattle on, but I was able to graze one of them last year, and I can tell this year it looks better after having some livestock on it. The third area is really hard for me to get my cattle to and I have never had livestock on it, but am really hoping this year I can get them back there.
 
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