BEEF Daily

Let’s Talk Fall Grazing


This week’s poll asks, “What’s your operation’s fall grazing status?”

South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension recently held an informative meeting to prepare ranchers for when the snow flies. The agenda included cost-effective protein choices for winter feed, maintaining body condition score in cows in their final trimester, and inventoring available forage resources. These considerations, of course, are more challenging in a drought scenario.

One statistic shared at the meeting was that 70% of the nation’s cowherd is in a drought situation, and 35% of the cows are in a severe drought.

In my area, we have gotten some late-season rain and, while it’s too late to help the crops, it certainly is greening up pastures and setting us up for some good fall grazing. We use rotational grazing to get the most out of our pastures, and our previously grazed paddocks are growing back quite nicely.

Once the corn crop is completely harvested, we’ll move the cows onto the fields to graze the crop residues. If the snow holds off, our available forage resources could allows the cows to graze well into December. We also creep feed our calves and we are fortunate that we haven’t had to wean early, as our pastures are supporting the pairs well.

However, I realize not everyone is in the same boat.

As this drought continues to plague ranchers across the U.S., it’s imperative to have a drought plan in place, especially if this dry weather continues into 2013 and forage resources are further depleted.

While some parts of the U.S. have received much-needed rains recently, the latest USDA report says 18% of the nation’s pasture and range is rated as Good or Excellent, with 58% at Poor or Very Poor. This week’s online poll question on the homepage is: “What’s your operation’s fall grazing status?”

With 77 votes in so far, 53% say, “very poor.” Another 25% will have good grazing this fall. And, 22% have average grazing.

Vote in the poll here.

What's going on in your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comments section below.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Nicole (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2012

We're finally getting rain here in SW MO. I'm not sure that it'll help much, but at least our field is greening back up so we can get a second cutting of hay off of it.

Bette (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2012

Pastures are in poor condition. No regrowth on early grazed grass. The only rains we've been getting are in the .05-.15" amounts & that doesn't make grass grow. Had a good start this spring & that helped. Management is the key.

April (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2012

Hurricane Issac saved us here is West Central IL. I have grass growing as if it were May and a herd of happy cows!!Corn has been harvested so we are headed to stalk fields and green waterways next. But with that comes new concerns (Hight Nitrate levels in the residues and grass tetaney.

D. A. (not verified)
on Sep 20, 2012

Our cattle graze in an increasingly drought-prone farming area, which was mostly forested up until about a hundred years ago. Average rainfall here, near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, is 50 inches per year, but 2011 brought 80 inches with floods worse than the former record of 1937. So far 2012 has brought about 17 inches here: worse than the Dust Bowl drought of 1936. Last winter was exceptionally mild, with nearly average precipitation, but no rain fell on this place from March 22 to mid-June, usually the wettest months of the year. Our cattle grazed a spring stockpile, which lasted until two very small rains, less than an inch total, greened up pastures in late June. Then the heat really set in—between 90 and 108 degrees for the entire period—and no more rain fell until Aug. 13. Hurricane Isaac greened up the pastures nicely. Though it didn't break the drought by any stretch, temperatures have begun to cool during the past couple of weeks. We thought the herd would be set, with plenty of grass and legumes to last until frost. But then fall army worms showed up on Sept. 13—the first we have ever seen here, although spring armyworms have come through in the past. The green was mostly fast-growing tender crabgrass, which army worms have now devastated, along with our fall re-growth of alfalfa—nothing but stems over the majority of a hundred acres. No one in our area is looking to buy cows right now, but we are looking to sell some. Meanwhile, we’re working like crazy, drilling rye, over-seeding ryegrass and clovers, and have broadcasted some turnips, with hope that some rain will come soon to germinate them. A tornado swept through here on Leap Day, and another on September 7, leaving most of our farm buildings with minor to major damage. When will we get a break?

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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