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First time grazing stalks questions
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Posted 11/16/2023 20:14 (#10484876 - in reply to #10482968)
Subject: RE: First time grazing stalks questions

East of Broken Bow
JAnderson - 11/15/2023 11:27

Going to fence off ~30ac of stalks that connects to the pasture they are currently in and let the cows go back/forth until snow keeps them from going out anymore. Should I be adding some protein while the are grazing stalks? I have 18-20% protein alfalfa bales I was thinking about putting out for the protein source, bad/good idea?

Edit: 15 cows is what will be out there

Been grazing stalks here all my life, and generally it is pretty easy, but there are a few things to consider.

First, don't let cows into stalks 'hungry'. If they have plenty of grass where they are, generally youll be fine, if the grass is old/dry or getting thin, fill them up with hay before letting them out.

Protein needs have as much to do with cattle as the stalks. When do you calve? One of the reasons we calve later than many around here (start the last week in March) is because the farther along they are in their gestation, the greater the feed needs of the cow in both quantity and quality. We have found that under normal weather conditions here (central Nebraska) all we need to add is salt and mineral for the cows to do good at least to the end of the year. Keep in mind as time goes by, the feed value of the stalks will go down, and it will go down faster with moisture.
I know it will be more work, but if you want to maximize the use of the stalks, fence out about an acre a cow, (15 acres, which is great as it is about half your field), graze that about 3 weeks, then let them into all of it. You don't want to graze it too completely before letting them to the rest, so they aren't too 'hungry'.
From my experience, you should get about 2 months grazing if you have 2 acres per cow, barring muddy conditions (degrades quality plus some gets tromped in the mud) or snow preventing them from grazing. At this point, you can add protein, and/or feed every 2nd or 3rd day and stretch the stalks out longer.
If you calve earlier than we do, you will need to start supplementing sooner.
I have found lick tubs with a limiter are actually a pretty economical way to guage the quality of the stalks. Put the tubs on the far side of the field, farthest away from the salt, water, and mineral. Our cows will barely touch the tub until the stalks start getting used up. It is not unusual for one tub to last 80 cows for over a month when first put to stalks. When it starts to disappear faster, let them onto more stalks, or think about feeding them hay, depending on condition, and closeness to calving. By the 3rd trimester, you might need to feed them something more, even if the stalks aren't fully utilized.
With good management, 2 acres per cow should get you almost 2 months of grazing, with little to no supplement. Oh, and if you put out a tub, still give them both salt AND mineral by the water, so they are licking it for the protein, and not the salt/mineral in the tub (if you wish to use the tub as a guage as to when to start feeding them).
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