VFGC Members Share Timeless Benefits of Stockpiling and Strip-Grazing Tall Fescue
By: JB Daniel, USDA-NRCS State Grazing Specialist
Jerry and Judy Ingle partnered with the Black Diamond RC&D, the local Extension agent along with the Soil and Water District and NRCS to host an educational meeting emphasizing the practice of stockpiling and strip-grazing fescue over the winter. The event was held on February 19, 2019 and began with 33 participants attending lunch and a fescue stockpiling case study presentation by JB Daniel, NRCS State Grazing Specialist. His presentation was complimented by an overview and summary of comparing the nutritional value of fertilized, stockpiled tall fescue to that of various hay samples from different farms. Amy Fannon, Extension Agent Lee County, explained how to interpret the forage and hay sample analysis and compare it to the actual nutritional requirements of cows in different phases of the reproductive cycle. After a brief question/ answer and discussion period on all that was presented, the group traveled to Jerry and Judy Ingles farm for a pasture walk.
At the farm, Amy Fannon explained how to properly sample hay to send in for analysis and let the farmers in attendance know she had a hay sample probe they could sign out and use to sample their hay. In the pasture, the group talked about field selection, fertility recommendations for stockpiling, and strip-grazing management with step-in posts and polytape. Judy Ingle explained how she manages the cow herd on the stockpile and how she moves them to a sacrifice lot when the rain comes, and the soil conditions are too wet for them to be out on the pasture. Judy emphasized how daily moves to a new strip of stockpile maximize utilization of the forage by the livestock and greatly increases grazing days through the winter. Attendees witnessed the excellent manure distribution across the pasture as facilitated by the grazing management. We looked and rated post grazing ground cover and made recommendations for frost seeding clover this time of year.
The pasture walk concluded by acknowledging the good body condition of the cows and calves, tying the positive aspects of stockpiling and strip grazing tall fescue over the winter with the resulting thick, vigorous forage sward, excellent ground cover, minimum soil disturbance and how all this contributes to improved soil health. The management strategy of stockpiling and strip-grazing tall fescue is just as applicable today as it was 45 years ago when the late Dr. Harlan White was promoting it on farms just like this. The main difference today is that it is just easier to do with the improvements in portable electric fencing components. If you have not stockpiling and strip grazing your cattle and you are feeding hay more than 90 days over the winter, you are missing a real opportunity that will put money in your pocket.
Don’t let another winter go by without stockpiling at least one paddock this fall. For more details about how to stockpile and strip graze to get the most out of this practice, go to the VFGC website and look under the resources and publications tab https://vaforages.org/resources/publications/ for a concise summary of 4 on-farm stockpiling case studies titled, What to Expect When Stockpiling and Strip Grazing Tall Fescue.
To better understand the benefits of stockpiling and strip-grazing related to soil health follow this link to the VA NRCS webpage https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/va/soils/health/ and open the document titled Soil Health for VA: Stockpiling Forages and Grazing Management. If you have more questions about this, you are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.