Both myself and Don Ball (Alabama Extension Forage
Agronomist) have received many questions and inquiries regarding the use
of stockpiled bermudagrass in Alabama. Folks in Oklahoma have had
very good success with grazing pregnant cows on stockpiled bermuda for
much of the winter. The keys to their success have been to use strip-grazing
and a protein supplement. We conducted a preliminary study at the
Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center in the fall of 2001 to look
at this concept in Alabama. A field of Tifton 44 bermudagrass was
cut for hay through the summer and then following the early August cutting
the N was applied and instead of cutting another hay crop in September
we left it for later grazing. The hay field was perimeter-fenced
with electric wire and then set up for strip grazing whereby the cows were
given access to a strip of forage across the width of the field.
This "strip-fence" was moved twice per week. On October 15th, 24
cows (avg wt 1,320 pounds) were placed on the field. Based on clipping
and drying forage, the hayfield contained 4,065 pounds of dry matter per
acre. On December 18th the cows were removed after utilizing 8.7
acres. The cows also consumed .66 pounds/day of a protein block that
contained 38% crude protein (Moorman's Mintrate). On December 18th
the cows averaged 1,394 pounds and were in the same condition as when they
went on in October.
This intitial data looks promising and we plan to look at it a little more in depth this coming fall/winter. We need to look at forage quality changes over time and see how far into the winter that the bermudagrass will support the pregnant cows. Another note is that these cows are not normally kept behind electric fences and the fence was adequate for keeping them in (this hayfield has roads on all sides with one side being Highway 68). We'll keep you posted on further findings. For specific details contact myself or Tony Dawkins (superintendent of the Sand Mountain Research & Extension Center).