Missouri Ruralist logo

3 ways to stockpile forage for winter cattle grazing

Here are 3 ways farmers can stockpile forage for winter cattle grazing.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

August 23, 2016

2 Min Read

Late season rains promoted pasture growth in many Missouri counties. Now is the time farmers should be stockpiling fescue to use in winter.

With stockpiling, the tall fescue growth that accumulates during the latter part of August, September, October, and early November can be saved and fed to animals during December, January, February, and possibly into March.

"Even late into the winter, this stockpiled forage will be of higher quality than the hay that was cut in June and July," says Ben Polley, an agronomy graduate student with University of Missouri Extension in a recent news release.

He offers three easy steps to build your pasture stockpile to extend grazing into the winter months.


1. Cut the blades. In August, cut or graze fields that are going to be stockpiled to about three to four inches.

2. Fertilize the pasture. In mid- to late-August, fertilize appropriately. Fertilizing too soon feeds summer annual weeds and fertilizing to late limits the amount of growth that can be achieved before frost. "For fertility, remember if the hay was cut off a field, significant levels of nutrients were also removed," Polley says. He recommends applying around 40 pounds per acre of nitrogen for toxic fescue fields and 65 pounds per acre for non-toxic fields," said Polley.

3. Shut the gate. Tall fescue has a waxy coating on it that protects the integrity of the leaf well into winter if, and only if, animals are not allowed to trample it.

Polley shares that hoof traffic on grass removes the wax coating. Once removed, forage quality declines.

This late-in-the-season growth is known as Missouri's secret weapon when it comes to successful cattle ranching. For producers to reap the benefits of fall tall fescue, some planning is required.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like