Roy Harmon, Corydon, says so far he's getting by OK feeding cows in late fall. He operates a cow herd with his brother, and also cares for the herd of C.J. Loudon, a neighbor killed in a farm accident in late August.
"We've been able to pasture them pretty well so far," he says. Rains which started coming a bit more regularly in September through now have helped create some late pasture in permanent pasture fields. The warm October and relatively warm fall so far have helped too, he says. That's allowed for grass and forage growth.
Both forage and animal Extension specialists say it's OK to pasture fields in late winter or early fall, as long as they aren't pastured too short. In fact, John Johns, animal scientist and Extension specialist at the University of Kentucky at Lexington says that dead or dried grass after a freeze can be nutritious for overwintering beef cows. Some specialists believe the best plan is to let grass grow now, then turn cattle in after a hard freeze to clean up top growth.
Harmon has begun offering corn stalk bales to his cattle. So far, they haven't been overly interested in the corn stalk bales, he notes. That's likely partially because they are still getting a fair amount of forage and nutritional intake from pastures.
In eastern Indiana Don Berger, Whiteater, has a slightly different situation. He's getting good mileage out of late pasture growth, spurred by a warmer than normal fall and late rains, but he raises dairy heifers, from three-days old to nearly ready to calve. And he's also put up corn stalk bales to feed during the early part of the winter, saving his better hay for later in the season, when temperatures may be colder and cattle may need the most extra energy boost to get through the toughest part of the winter season.
He supplements stalks with grain plus some silage. His grain mix consists of cracked corn missed with whole, roasted soybeans. He's able to get someone to bring a roaster to his farm, and roast his soybeans for 70 cents per bushel. What he likes about using his own, roasted, whole soybeans over selling his beans and purchasing soy protein back is that he's getting benefit from the oil for energy, even though he realizes the protein content in whole roasted soybeans is not as high as it would be if he was purchasing soybean meal commercially.
Berger is doing two things that specialists advising livestock producers how to get through this forage-short winter stress. First, he tested his forage to know what the nutrient content of his various feedstuffs was. Then he's supplementing with corn and a protein source based upon that information. With growing dairy heifers, his forage needs are somewhat different than those with other classes of livestock.