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Missouri producer grazes livestock 320 days per year

Progressive Forage Grower Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 11 April 2016

Mark Kennedy from Houston, Missouri, doesn’t produce any hay. He grazes cattle, sheep and goats on his rocky, hilly ground, and buys whatever hay he needs. He grazes about 320 to 340 days per year, and tries to have 60 days worth of hay on hand in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. In good years, he may not have to feed any hay, but on dry years, he may have to feed hay 65 days or so.

Roughly 80 percent of Kennedy’s pasture is a cool-season grass and legume mix consisting of tall fescue, orchardgrass, timothy, Kentucky bluegrass, red clover, ladino clover and annual lespedeza. About 20 percent of his pasture is a native warm-season grass mix of big bluestem, indiangrass, little bluestem and sideoats grama with some annual lespedeza overseeded into it. Kennedy says, “The warm-season grasses are more productive during the dry summers on my rocky soils, so I don't have to abuse the cool-season grasses and the animals get a higher quality diet. The warm-season grasses help manage the fescue endophyte problem by allowing me to get off of the fescue dominated pastures during the summer. Also, I can better manage the spring growth and keep it more vegetative by not having to graze the warm-season grasses in April and May.”

For Kennedy, as with all producers, yield and quality are always a compromise. Young, immature plants are the highest quality, but yield is limited. Mature plants have a high yield, but quality is low. Kennedy says, “I try to graze in late phase two (pre-boot to boot stage). I like to buy hay that is cut in this stage as well. From a grazing standpoint, if I graze high-quality young growth that is in phase one, animal intake will be lower because the plants are too short. Also, if this is repeated, stands will thin because the plants haven't been allowed to fully recover from the last grazing event. By allowing plants to get into the latter part of phase two, the plants have fully recovered from previous grazing and there is enough quantity there for good animal intake, and the quality is sufficient to meet the needs of the grazing animal.”

Kennedy also believes strongly in being involved in forage-related associations. He says, “In today’s society with all sorts of information on the Internet, producers need to be involved in telling their side of the story with factual, science-based information. American Forage and Grassland Council is a forum that brings producers, ag industry professionals, scientists and conservationists together to ‘advance forage agriculture and grassland stewardship.’”

As a cash crop, the value of all dry hay harvested in the U.S. in 2015 was estimated at $16.84 billion, trailing only corn ($49.04 billion) and soybeans ($34.54 billion).

Adding in the value of haylage and greenchop, the USDA estimated the value of hay-based forages in the U.S. at $19.13 billion in 2015.

In the conterminous 48 states, grassland pasture and range represent the largest share of the land base. About 51 percent of the U.S. land base (including Alaska) is used for agricultural purposes, including cropping, grazing (on pasture, range and in forests) and farmsteads.

Kennedy is proud to be supporting National Forage Week as part of his involvement with the American Forage and Grassland Council, as a member of the Missouri Forage and Grassland Council and as a producer who knows the importance of quality forages.

To find out more about National Forage Week, go to the American Forage and Grassland Council website and find out how you can participate.  FG

Hear from Kennedy himself in the video below:

Lynn Jaynes
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