By Nadia Mori
Regional forage specialist
Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
Grazing of crop residue and stockpiled forages can be supplemental feeding options in addition to swath grazing annuals, grazing corn, or bale grazing. As with other extensive fall and winter feeding options, there are potential economic advantages of reduced feed and yard-age costs along with potential environmental advantages of recycling more nutrients back into the soil compared to feeding in confinement.
Crop residue grazing
Field grazing crop residue during fall and winter can be a viable option for mixed producers or where annual cropland is located close to a livestock producer and an agreement among producers can be found. In most cases, for crop residue grazing to be economical, the crop residue needs to be bunched during the combining process. There needs to be sufficient acres and residue amount to justify the investment cost of the bunching equipment. Perimeter fencing and availability of windbreaks will also need to be considered as a potential infrastructure investment.
For more details on crop residue grazing, please visit www.agricultrue.gov.sk.ca and search for the factsheet on Crop Residue Collection for Field Grazing. The fact-sheet also contains a link to a crop residue calculator which will provide an estimation of grazing days avail-able based on the crop type and amount harvested.
Stockpiled forage grazing
Tame pasture which was grazed earlier in the season and then left to re-grow can possibly be grazed during the dormant season. Grazing during the dormant season is not harmful to next summer’s growth provided that the stand is not grazed during next year’s initial summer growth, that the stand has adequate recovery time, and that the plants are not susceptible to winter kill because of lost insulation from the snow.
Access to water is one of the major obstacles that producers face when moving livestock out of confinement during fall and winter. Snow is not a reliable water source and winterized watering systems should be considered for feeding into later fall and winter months.
Keep in mind that mature grasses, mature alfalfa, and straw generally have a low energy and high fibre content. Feed testing is important to ensure that the animal’s nutritional requirements are still being met. The feeding system will also need enough flexibility to allow for higher energy requirements during adverse winter weather conditions.