Producers in west central Saskatchewan may be able to extend the number of grazing days for their cattle through a new method of swath grazing.
Barley is one of the most common crops to use for the practice of swath grazing and new research suggests delaying harvest from soft dough to hard dough. This has shown to produce more nutrient dense feed for cattle to consume during the winter months, without compromising crop yield or quality.
Dr. Bart Lardner, professor at the University of Saskatchewan, explained that swath grazing is a relatively new practice with it being implemented roughly 10 to 15 years ago. Many producers, he said, are adopting the new grazing system as it has multiple benefits including less time spent on the tractor.
Dr. Lardner stated that the swath grazing system better allows producers to control the feeding environment by partitioning cattle to a certain area of the field decreasing the amount of crop that gets trampled while also keeping manure on the field for next years crop.
Up until now producers have aligned their harvesting times with those used for silage whereas they would harvest at soft dough stage. Dr. Greg Penner with the University of Saskatchewan with the help of a student laid the framework to challenge this methodology and found that delaying harvest until hard dough actually increased the nutrients within the feed. Therefore, by producers holding off on harvest, they would not only increase the nutrients delivered to the cattle, but also increase the number of days cattle spent in the field oppose to feeding in pens, which was later validated in Dr. Lardner’s three year grazing study.
Environmental factors will likely play a role in outcomes, however, it is an idea that could yield beneficial for producers.
The Saskatchewan Forage Council has invited Dr. Lardner, Dr. Penner to present their findings to producers through a Field Day, Wednesday, December 5 at 1:00, south of Clavet, SK.