Cattle farmers: use warm-season grasses to extend the grazing season
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Cattle producers who want to extend their herd’s grazing season are recommended by the University of Missouri Extension to plant warm-season grasses in their pastures.
Warm-season grasses allow for grazing even during severe weather conditions such as high temperatures or extreme precipitation.
Species of warm-season grasses in Missouri include Big Bluestem, Gama Grass, Indian Grass, Little Bluestem as well as Switch Grass.
While fescue is Missouri’s main forage during the Spring and Summer months, there are some problems associated with this grass.
According to Humphreys, a type of fungi known as an endophyte infects tall fescue and once it is fed to cattle can lead to a myriad of complications.
Cattle can experience reproductive issues and can even be fatal if too many endophytes are ingested.
Having warm-season grasses will help to improve herd health, but growing them will take time.
Humphreys explains that during the ‘establishment’ years, producers should focus on weed control to help stronger strands of grass develop.
By maintaining pastures of warm-season grasses during the establishment period, soil fertility increases to provide better quality forage yields.
As with all types of grasses, overgrazing or mowing the pasture too short can decrease quality yields for the following season.
For more information about warm-season grasses, the University of Missouri Extension and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have collaborated to create the MU Grasslands Project on the University of Missouri Extension’s website.